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Grave Goods by Jessica Mann

"Instinct with history, enthrallingly intricate, this is a stylish mixture of period pastiche and a lethal twist-and-turn treasure hunt. Mann rings the maximum entertainment from each." The Guardian

‘The coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas day in the year 800 was the central event of the middle ages and altered the history of the world.’

One of the sets of his regalia is the subject of Grave Goods. Tamara Hoyland the clever, cool heroine of earlier novels, finds that someone is trying to kill Margot Ellice, a woman who is only interesting for one reason, that she is writing about the life of the morganatic wife of a Prince of Horn, in the mid-nineteenth century.

The material is correspondence between her, the former Lady Artemis Bessemer, and her sister Lady Clementine, written from the Horn family palaces in Prussia.

Margot’s book opens with the sentence, ‘Lady Artemis Bessemer was sold by her father to the hereditary prince of Horn in the autumn of 1858.’ Now an exhibition is to come to London from Prussia – a diplomatic gesture by the east Germans. The centrepiece will be Charlemagne’s regalia which were thought never to have left the Horn palace at Drachenschloss before. But in doing research into the Horn family, Margot seems to have aroused passions, from greed to embarrassment or terror. She will not be the only person to die as desperate attempts are made to discover what really happened to those ancient treasures.

Faced with a complex puzzle, Tamara is at her most impressive in this new adventure, a story of formidable virtuosity, lucidly and elegantly told and leading to a finely ironic conclusion.

Tamara Hoyland, the heroine of many of Jessica Mann’s novels, plays a leading role. She is placed amidst a strong cast of women to provide the contrast between heroines real, imagined or pretence. Another discussion of feminism in the novel is through a new movement called ‘Watchwomen’ which claims that feminism has been hi-jacked by socialists or lesbians.