'In a penal station for second offenders at the edge of the known world, gentleman convict Hugh Monsarrat hungers for a freedom he fears he may never again know. Originally transported for forging documents passing himself off as a lawyer, and later criminalised again for travelling outside the boundaries of his ticket of leave to visit his lover, he is now the trusted clerk of the settlement's Commandant.
'His position has certain advantages, such as being able to spend time in the Government House kitchen, being supplied with tea by housekeeper Hannah Mulrooney who, despite being illiterate, is one of the most intelligent people at Port Macquarie Penal Settlement. Her pet soldier Private Fergal Slattery, who is in charge of a convict crew hanging green wallpaper at Government House, is also among the kitchen's frequent visitors.
'With the Commandant away on an expedition, his beautiful young wife Honora falls ill, with a sickness the settlement doctor can't identify.
'When Honora dies, though, it becomes clear she has been slowly poisoned.
'Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney suspect the Commandant's second in command, Captain Michael Diamond, a cruel man who had been nursing an obsession with Honora.
'But then, Diamond has Mrs Mulrooney arrested for the murder. Knowing his friend will likely hang if she is tried, Monsarrat has to find a means to identify the real killer.
'Monsarrat is able to solve the crime and is granted a ticket of leave for his efforts, on the condition that he continue to work solving crimes for the crown. He knows he will be incapable of fulfilling his obligations without Mrs Mulrooney (or her tea), and requests she be assigned as his housekeeper. And so begins The Monsarrat Series, a fast-paced, witty and gripping series from Tom Keneally and his eldest daughter Meg.' (Publication summary)