Clementine, the Countess of Montfort, is in the final preparations for the family’s annual summer costume ball. Too bad one of the guests is her husband’s reprobate ward and nephew, Teddy Mallory, who is bent on working his usual malicious mischief. Things take a turn for the worse when Teddy shows up dead and thanks to his trouble making there is no end to potential suspects among friends and family. To Lady Montfort’ s dismay, she discovers her own son Harry, may have had a motive. Afraid that the police will discover the hostility which existed between Harry and Teddy, in desperation she reaches out to her very logical thinking housekeeper Mrs. Jackson, and requests her help in investigating this tawdry matter themselves. While playing detective, the two intrepid ladies will uncover many more secrets being hidden by family, friends, and servants.
Being a devotee of Downton Abbey, this book immediately peaked my interest when I saw it, and for the most part it did not disappoint. Set in 1912, the story takes you right back to Edwardian England. It even puts you in the middle of women trying to get the right to vote, with the introduction of one character who wades right into the thick of things with Mrs. Parkhurst and her supporters. In addition to the murder, there are also two young women who go missing, one a maid the other a titled guest. These two added mysteries easily could have been a distraction that took away from the main one, but in the author’s skilled hands, they added some nice layers to the compelling plot. The characters were equally interesting. Teddy is truly despicable. I think I even wanted to kill him after a particular incident involving a dog. For the majority of the book I had no clue who finally snapped and murdered him. I did however have a feeling I was going to wind up feeling sorry for them and I did. There was one main aspect of this novel though, which prevented this from being a perfect read for me and that was the relationship between the Countess and Mrs. Jackson. I really liked and appreciated each woman, and I found that they balanced each other quite well, but Clementine had absolutely no hesitancy in confiding everything, and I mean everything, to her housekeeper, and I just found it a bit unbelievable given the time period. Mrs. Jackson, to her credit, was much more nonplussed by the easy familiarity with which the Countess treated their relationship. Otherwise, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read which not only has a great murder mystery at it’s heart, but also does a wonderful job exploring the class distinctions of Edwardian England. Fans of Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs should definitely check this out.