I was contacted by the lovely John over at The Last Word Review to review this brilliant novel by Piu Marie Eatwell, and I am so pleased he did. I thoroughly enjoyed The Dead Duke, with its fascinating history and wonderfully engrossing story.
In 1897 an elderly widow, Anna Maria Druce, made a strange request of the London Ecclesiastical Court: it was for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, T.C. Druce.
Behind her application lay a sensational claim: that Druce had been none other than the eccentric and massively wealthy 5th Duke of Portland, and that the – now dead – Duke had faked the death of his alter ego. When opened, Anna Maria contended, Druce’s coffin would be found to be empty. And her children, therefore, were heirs to the Portland millions.
The legal case that followed would last for ten years. Its eventual outcome revealed a dark underbelly of lies lurking beneath the genteel facade of late Victorian England.
This era is one of my favourites, mainly because of the mystery that shrouds it, the secrets that lie behind Victorian manners and society. Murderous governesses, mad wives in attics, wily prostitutes, and, of course, dead dukes. This story revolves around the 5th Duke of Portland, and the insinuation that he was also a Mr T.C. Druce, a businessman mainly living in London. It all starts with one woman, presenting to the court for permission to open Druce’s grave, which would, she insisted, contain no body. And so began one of the longest legal battles in history.
Eatwell provides us with an insight into another time and place, meticulously researched and wonderfully written. The Dead Duke is, for all intents and purposes, non-fiction. But it is also a story, beautifully told and woven together by Eatwell’s fabulous prose. I found myself lost between the pages for days, puzzling out the mystery of The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and The Missing Corpse.
About the author
Piu Eatwell was born in India, of mixed Anglo-Indian descent. She studied English at Oxford University, graduating ‘summa cum laude’ with a starred First Class degree. She subsequently worked as a lawyer and television producer for the BBC and other TV companies. She now lives in France and writes full-time on French-themed subjects, as well as true crime. When not delving in history archives or writing about her adopted country, Piu divides her time between London and Paris. She is married with three children.
The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell is available on Amazon.