This is the second book in this series. Ms. Potter is fully established as the rightful owner of Hill Top Farm. Now she is determined to set up shop. So she is buying her livestock, much to the amazement of the town. She decides to buy some sheep from Ben Hornby who is known for his superior lambs. The day she is to inspect her lambs, she finds Ben Hornby dead in his pasture. It appears that Ben did not die by accident. He has had a series of misfortunes. Just the year before, his barn burned down, and it looked like arson. Well all the humans and all the animals decide to find out what happened to old Ben.
In addition to all this, Lady Longford, a meddlesome old aristocrat, has decided that she want one Dr. Harrison Gainwell to be the headmaster of the local school. Of course, everyone in the town expects that Miss Nash, who has been teaching for years, will become the headmistress. In addition, her Ladyships granddaughter Caroline is coming to live with her after the dead of her parents. It seems her father and grandmother had a falling out when the dad decided not to marry the grandmother’s choice for a bride. The girl is in the care of a Miss Maribel Martine, who is Lady Longford’s companion. Miss Martine is rather cruel to the girl and constantly informs everyone that the girl is obstinate.
As it transpires there are two mysteries in this town.
Old Ben Hornby was firmly against the sport of badger baiting as being cruel to animals. In fact, this sport (if it could be called that) was illegal. He would never let people onto his land in order to trap badgers. He made quite a few enemies. One man in particular got into a verbal altercation with Ben and struck him across the back with badger tongs in anger. This blow knocked Ben down the hill to his death.
Maribel Martine is a thief and a murderer. Dr. Gainwell is her brother. The plan had been to ingratiate herself with her Ladyship to influence her to change her will. Meanwhile she was poisoning the old lady with the substance off fly paper. She tipped her hand because she was firing all the old staff. In addition she was running the house as though she owned it instead of as a domestic. She saw the granddaughter Caroline as a threat to her plans because the old lady was actually growing fond of the girl despite Martine’s slandering the child. It was Martine pressuring Lady Longford to recommend Dr. Gainwell. In fact her Ladyship had never met the man. By the end of the book, we see the Lady Longford begin to lose patience with Martine. As for Gainwell, he left once he realized his sister intended to kill Caroline. He didn’t mind swindling or knocking off an old lady, but murdering a child was beyond the limit for him.
I liked this book. It was more of the typical mystery. I like the fact that the animals have a part to play and that they reveal additional facts of which the humans are unaware. This book definitely redeemed this series for me.