The novel “Fool’s Gold,” by Caro Peacock, is a very rambling and confusing book. The 8th in the Liberty Lane series about a Victorian era female private detective, it has layered plots, one of which involves a threatened kidnapping and the other stereotypical bad guys and buried treasure.
Without being a spoiler, I can say that the story opens with Liberty, AKA Mrs. Carmichael, since she is now married to Robert, on her honeymoon on a borrowed yacht near the Greek Island of Cephalonia. She and Robert are invited to go on land to have dinner with a Mr. Vickery, his right-hand man Jolly, his friend Geoffrey Panter and Geoffrey’s wife Emilia and Vickery’s teenage ward George.
Liberty learns that George is, allegedly, the illegitimate son of the late British Poet Lord Byron. Given the weather is bad, they end up staying the night in Vickery’s rented villa. Just before returning to the boat, however, they find George distraught because he had been swimming with Geoffrey who has gone missing and is assumed to be drowned.
Born blind, George believes he is cursed because many people have bad luck or die who are near or connected to him. And, now Geoffrey appears to have drowned and George blames himself for not being able to save him.
Mr. Vickery later moves George to London, where Liberty meets up with him again. Vickery also rents an estate near London, referred to as Muswell Hill, and wants to move George there. He also wants Liberty to stay at Muswell Hill to ensure George is not kidnapped.
Why would George be kidnapped? Apparently there is a legend that Lord Byron buried treasure before his death and many assume George would know where that treasure is hidden.
When the action between London and Musell Hill starts in earnest:
- We meet a woman by the name of Helena, who claims to be George’s mother.
- Then, Helena’s body is found, not in London, but in the far edges of the property at Muswell Hill.
- While Vickery is convinced of a kidnap plot gone wrong, Liberty must find out what Helena had to do with such a plot.
- Vickery, Jolly and his crooked lawyer friend bury Helena’s body in the garden.
- The police find out about the death and arrest Vickery and charge him with the Helena’s murder.
- Liberty discovers more about Helena and that, as a poverty-stricken actress, she was likely trying to get out of the kidnapping plot when she was killed.
- George then runs away with one of his tutors because another death has occurred near him.
- Because Vickery is in jail, Liberal is the only one who can look for George.
- While looking for George, Vickery’s crooked lawyer is found dead.
- The police know it couldn’t have been Vickery since he was in jail.
Of course, the police were confused. And, obviously so was George and his tutor. So was I. In fact, I would say, that this novel went from a 4 or 5 star book to a 3 because it was so confusing. Buried treasure was just too simplistic and, frankly, unbelievable. And, not surprising, we eventually find out that Geoffrey didn’t really drown and Emilia was not really his wife.
But, even telling you all these points, I don’t believe I am spoiling the story. As a result of that packed plot, I personally think that this story would have been more realistic had Peacock used another reason to be at the root of all the death and destruction other than the belief that there was buried treasure.
My rating for this book is 3 stars out of 5.
Severn House Publishing 2017 (218 pages).