Release Date: Mar 12, 2019
Series: A Victorian Mystery
Publisher: Penguin Group
Inspector Gerald Witherspoon and Constable Barnes are called to the scene of a poisoning at the Wrexley Hotel. James Pierce, the owner of a shipping company, was holding the annual Lighterman’s Ball at the hotel for his board members, employees, and suppliers. Witherspoon’s own footman Wiggins is a witness since he was in attendance at the Ball as the guest of an employee. As the investigation gets underway, the victim is found to have many enemies so finding the killer could be difficult. Fortunately, unbeknownst to him, the Inspector has Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of his staff gathering evidence that will help him solve the case.
The premise of the book and the entire series that Inspector Witherspoon’s household staff and close friends help him solve murders without his knowledge may sound silly to those new to the series. However, the author is able to make it believable. It helps that Witherspoon’s right-hand man, Constable Barnes, is in on the secret and is able to feed information to the staff to help them with their part of the investigation. New readers can start with this book and will enjoy it, but will be missing out on the rich history of the main characters and their friendship. I love seeing the household out “on the hunt” for information and then sharing what they’ve learned in their daily meetings. The meetings are one of the highlights of this book seeing the household working together, but with the spirit of a little friendly competition over who can gather the most important clues.
Even though this is a long-running series, the author is able to keep each book fresh. This time, Wiggins and the medical examiner, Dr. Bosworth, are witnesses to the crime since they were attending the Ball. That was interesting and I actually wish the fact Wiggins was there had been used even more in the plot than it was. I am a little disappointed that Betsy has not played as big of a role in the most recent books. I’m glad newcomer Phyllis has become more outgoing and skilled in the household’s investigations, but hate to see Phyllis becoming a more important character than the more likable Betsy.
A positive aspect of this installment is seeing how much Witherspoon has grown as a detective in his own right. His success in solving cases with his household’s help has given him more confidence in his abilities. He now listens to his “inner voice” more and more and is able to make intelligent deductions on his own. There are plenty of suspects and possible motives in this murder investigation. I was able to guess some of the solution, but the ending still held a few surprises. This is one of my favorite series, and I always enjoy seeing the camaraderie teamwork, and devotion between Mrs. Jeffries and the others. I like the Victorian England setting and experiencing another successful case for the Inspector and his secret team. The book is a quick, entertaining read for fans of this author as well as those who enjoy Victoria Thompson or Agatha Christie.