Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, Seattle
Publication date: 20 December 2016
Page count: 270 pages
I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review and all opinions are my own.
Spring, 1909, and Lady Hardcastle, amateur sleuth and all-round eccentric, is enjoying a well-deserved rest. But a week after a trip to the cattle market, Spencer Caradine, a local farmer, turns up dead in the pub, face-down in his beef and mushroom pie. Once again, it is up to Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence, to solve the case.
Armed with wit and whimsy, not to mention Florence’s mean right hook, the pair set out to discover what really happened and why. Was it poison or just ill luck?
As they delve further into their investigation, they encounter a theft where nothing is stolen, a séance with a troubled ghost and an ever-increasing number of Spencer’s family and friends who might just have motive for murder. One thing’s for sure: Lady Hardcastle has a mystery on her hands.
I have recently become aware of the sub-genre of crime and mystery books that calls itself ‘cosy mystery’, I have read this type of book before but the terminology is new to me and I have read several books in the sub-genre just recently including this one. Cosy is a good term in that it accurately portrays that this is the sort of book to read to unwind and relax.
This is the second book to feature Lady Hardcastle and her maid Florence and the mystery is self-contained in the book though references are made to the events in the preceding book. While it is set in the rural Gloucester area in the west of England in 1909 our amateur detectives are far from typically Edwardian in thought and action. Lady Hardcastle is very much an Eccentric and has a very bohemian relationship with her maid Florence. Although Flo does indeed provide all the services of a Ladies maid she is also good friends with Lady Hardcastle and is allowed to speak her mind and assist in crime solving. The repartee between Flo and ‘My Lady’ is one of the strengths of this book and I found both women quite engaging.
The premise for the investigation seems a little implausible (particularly considering the time period and their gender) with a local police detective of their acquaintance asking them to investigate on his behalf as he does not have the time but if you over look this minor issue then the fun of the detective work begins. This is set in a time before much forensic technology and as telephones are not common and Lady Hardcastle only purchases her first motor car part way through the book the mystery has to unfold more slowly, solved the old fashioned way. This paves the way for lots of interesting characters, plenty of conversations, gossip, chance discoveries and baking of cakes.
The mysteries all come together nicely at the end of the book and I was correct in my suspicions as to who the culprit was but the how and why exactly eluded me as the narrative is from Florence’s point of view and she, and we by extension, are not privy to all of Lady Hardcastle’s research.
This was nice light read with some good humour and interesting characters. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to those who also enjoy cosy mysteries.