The Grenadillo Box by Janet Gleeson

The Grenadillo Box by Janet Gleeson.  This first novel set in winter months of 1755 in London and Cambridge is a strange and complex, yet entertaining tale.  Our narrator is Nathaniel Hopson, journeyman to the cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale.  On assignment at the country home of Lord Montfort, he discovers the nobleman’s body in the library dead of an apparent suicide.  Yet there is much evidence, including an exceptionally designed box of grenadillo wood found in the dead man’s hand, that does not fit that scenario and when Hopson finds another dead body the next morning, this time a fellow journeyman and good friend from Chippendale’s shop, Hopson is tasked to investigate the deaths.  Are the two connected and if so how? 

The premise of the narrative is Hopson describing the investigation to his sweetheart, the wood supplier Alice Goodchild, in a letter.  Therefore, I struggled early on with the high-class and multi-syllabic language supposedly used by a journeyman cabinetmaker.  It is certainly not conversational in tone.  I was also a bit disappointed with the final solution, which in tying up all the loose ends, seems a bit overly complicated to me.  Despite these problems, the story will keep readers guessing until the very end and several characters, including both Hopson and Goodchild, are interesting as they develop throughout the book.

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