Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman
The summer ball at the country house of Lord and LAdy Montfort is the event of the year- and this year is no exception. However things are going to be a little more complicated this year- Montfort's nephew has been expelled from Oxford for gambling, and is coming home in time for the ball. When he is found murdered the night of the ball, it sets off a chain of events that will turn the lives of the Montfort's- and their guests- upside down. Lady Montfort, shocked by this turn of events, slowly realizes that there are many secrets under the veneer of glitz and wealth and is forced to turn to her housekeeper, Edith Jackson, for help in solving the murder. Her son is in danger of being accused, and she fears that to leave the matter to the police will doom him.
Jackson herself runs the downstairs of the house, and is a practical woman who knows everything that happens in the house- or thinks she does. Initially shocked at the impropriety of Lady Montfort coming to her, she soon finds herself with questions of her won when two women disappear from the house- one the daughter of privilege, and the other a serving girl. Are the disappearances linked t othe murder? The inquest is initially handled by a local man, but when Scotland Yard intervenes the stakes get higher... for everyone. Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson find themselves racing against time to find the murderer and clear the name of an innocent man before it's too late.
The story is told from the viewpoints of Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson, and Lord Montfort as well. THe transitions are seamless and this is a well written debut novel. Tessa arlen obviously knows her period history, and the story is full of references and historical tidbits that serve to deepen the story. I felt totally immersed in this world of Edwardian privilege and class snobbery, and arlen explores the changes that were happening at this time as well- the sense among the elite that lifew was changing for them, and not for the better, and the societal changes happening in England at large. It's a fascinating tale that touches on the suffragette movement and the changing status of women, but it never loses sight of the fact that it's amystery first and foremost- and it's a good mystery too. Lots of clues are sprinkled throughout, and while it's possible to guess aspects of the whodunit as you go, the twist at the end threw me a bit.
I really enjoyed this book, the period destails are spot on and immersive and I loved going back in time to the edwardian era and experiencing life both upstairs and down. I was sorry to finish this book and am happy to hear that a sequel is ion the works- I'm lookingforward to seeing Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson in action again.