Release Date: Sep 24, 2019
Series: A Victorian Mystery
Publisher: Penguin Group
Inspector Witherspoon and Constable Barnes are called to the murder scene of the wealthy Margaret Starling who is found murdered in her own garden. Mrs. Starling’s home is actually in the district of the inept Inspector Nigel Nivens, but with Witherspoon’s record for solving murders, the higher-ups at Scotland Yard want Witherspoon on the case. Part of Witherspoon’s success is because of the assistance he receives from members of his household and close friends help gather clues on his assigned cases. However, they are all able to do assist with the Inspector’s cases without his knowledge. This time, with Christmas coming up and Nivens seemingly working against them, Mrs. Jeffries is feeling the pressure to solve this case before the holidays and with Withersoon’s reputation in tact.
This is a long-running series and although the characters change and grow as the series progresses, each book can be read as a standalone. It’s easy to become acquainted with the main characters if you’re a new reader. Brightwell is able to come up with new twists to keep each book interesting for those who have followed the entire series. This time, Nivens is up to his old tricks, but with a new accomplice. This subplot adds a bit of drama to the book and things turn out in an unexpected and satisfying way by the end of the book.
The author gives plenty of clues regarding the murder mystery so most readers will have the identified even though there are a few different suspects. Even though the story takes place in Victorian England, the plot regarding a possible embezzler is still relevant today. However, the strong point of this series is the characters, their friendships, and their loyalty to each other and to Witherspoon. After reading one of the books, Brightwell has the reader on board with how Mrs. Jeffries can help the Inspector solve his cases without his knowledge. With the household’s list of witnesses and suspects overlapping with Witherspoon’s, there are a couple of times when a few characters are almost caught on the scene by Witherspoon and some these humorous moments are fun to read. No matter what the case is, I enjoy spending time with these characters.
In this book, all of the household and family members contribute equally to the case being solved. I have been disappointed with how small of a part the former housemaid Betsy has had in the past couple of investigations, but I am pleased that she is back on the case in this installment. I like the camaraderie of the characters and how they stick together when the case becomes difficult. I was excited to see that this book takes place right before Christmas but with the exception of a few comments, there wasn’t anything that gave the readers an in depth look at Victorian holiday traditions. The book is excellent as a whole, but I am disappointed in the lack of details about the household’s preparations for Christmas. However, this is a small complaint about an otherwise delightful installment in the Mrs. Jeffries series that fans of the series will enjoy, as well as fans of Victoria Thompson or Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books.