Release Date: Oct 17, 2017
Series: A Victorian Mystery
Publisher: Penguin Group
Christopher Gilhaney takes a shortcut to the railway station on his way home from a Guy Fawkes Night celebration, but is killed before he reaches his train. The mediocre and unlikeable Scotland Yard inspector Nigel Nivens labels the death a robbery gone wrong and fights to have the case assigned to him instead of renowned Inspector Gerald Witherspoon. Nivens gets his way, but when weeks go by and the case remains unsolved, he passes the bungled investigation off to his rival, Witherspoon. Witherspoon is handed a cold case with expectations by the Home Office of immediate results, so it’s a good thing he has a secret weapon – Mrs. Jeffries. Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of his household staff and close friends must put their doubts aside and their holiday plans on hold to help the Inspector close the case before Christmas.
The premise of this series set in Victorian England may sound far-fetched to new readers. Inspector Witherspoon’s household staff and a few close friends gather evidence and make deductions to help him solve his cases, without his knowledge. However, in Emily Brightwell’s capable hands, what could come off as silly is very charming and engaging. Although this is a long-running series, the author is able to keep it fresh by changing up the set-up from book to book. This time the household and special friends, who are usually eager to help the Inspector, are disappointed the investigation may interfere with their holiday plans. Even Mrs. Jeffries is pessimistic and off her game and it looks like this could be one murder that remains unsolved. Then “three wise women” find a way to get the others motivated and back on track to solving the difficult case.
The complex plots, Victorian setting, and likeable characters that care about and support each other make this one of my favorite mystery series. This book in particular is one of my favorites of the recent installments. The holiday timeframe makes it especially interesting and I really like that each character in the Inspector’s circle of friends takes equal part in solving the murder. The Inspector and his partner Constable Barnes are a great team as well, and also work hard to uncover the true character of the murder victim and find a motive for the murder. Some of the past few books have focused on a few characters forcing others into the background, but everyone is involved in this case. It’s great to see the cook, Mrs. Goodge, playing an especially important role in this case, and it’s even better that all the characters come together by the end. New and returning readers will be able to equally enjoy this delightful Victorian mystery.