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Well, not if you have a really good nanny. Which Francis Bacon has. (But more about that later.)
Yes, Francis Bacon, artist, gay, designer, bon vivant, adventurer, sometime spy, and always, always, always up to his neck in trouble is back in Janice Law's latest mystery, "Mornings in London".
But the first morning is in the country, at Larkin Manor, where Francis wakes up with a hangover and a naked footman, which is fine with him. The trouble is, all around him are the county set, and (aside from the footman) Francis is already bored to death. But he's down there at the request of a lady, his cousin Poppy, whom he hopes to rescue from Freddie, a bounder and a cad whom Francis knows a little too well and a little too much about.
Actually, that problem gets solved pretty quickly:
The morning of the hangover, Francis gets up to go to the bathroom and finds Signor Rinaldi, Italian diplomat under Mussolini, emerging from Freddie's room wearing nothing but a dressing gown. "I was returning a book he so kindly lent me," Rinaldi offers - but no one believes that, especially Poppy. The fight that follows attracts everyone's attention, and the main topic at dinner is that Poppy broke her engagement. The next day, she and Francis go for a restorative walk, they find Freddie, his throat cut, lying in the grass.
Now everyone at Larkin Manor know that none of them could have done it.
|Francis Bacon, Wikipedia|
Signor Rinaldi? A diplomat? Never!
Lady Larkin, wealthy, a supporter of fascist movements at home and abroad? Never!
Major Larkin, "the nice old architecture buff, the henpecked husband of a rich and politically ambitious wife"? Never!
Basil Grove and his horsey wife, the wealthy Daphne? Peter Tollman, the silver-haired government man and his trilling wife Lea? The Larkins' pudgy daughter? Never, never, never!
But Francis Bacon, dodgy decorator of rugs and furniture? And his cousin Poppy, who broke off the engagement in a fury? Well... maybe. Why not?
Francis knows trouble when he sees it - and it grows by leaps and bounds. Someone - as well as the police - are after Poppy. Someone mugs her. Someone searches her rooms. And when the lady vanishes, Francis knows he has to find out what's really going on.
Was Freddie murdered for love? For blackmail? For politics? And the last is possible. "Mornings in London" is set in the late 1920s, early 1930s, when fascism was rising both on the Continent and in England, especially among the aristocrats, to whom Mussolini was a handy tool for providing social stability. (They thought.) Everywhere Francis turns he runs into intelligence officers, including his exceptionally dodgy Uncle Lastings, who shows up with his own ideas on the murder...
And then there's Nan. I am so glad she is a major player in this book. I love Nan.
Nan, who "sometimes has more imagination than a nanny requires. Of course, that was exactly why she was ideal for me."
Nan, who always knows a secret place to slip a bit of evidence.
Nan, who will sleep / eat / live anywhere to be with Francis. (Seriously, in the 1940's, when Francis lived in Millais' old studio in South Kensington, for lack of an "alternative location", Nan slept on the kitchen table. Wikipedia.)
Nan, who encourages Francis to give up decorating and go into painting full-time, saying, "I've been poor. Money's better, but life's too short to pass on happiness."
Nan, who cooks and cleans and nurses - believe me, after reading about her, I am certain that all artists, of any genre, need a nanny like Jessie Lightfoot.
Thanks, Janice, for giving us Francis, Nan, and "Mornings in London".