Copyright: June 2010 (Berkley Books) 304 pgs
Series: 27th in Mrs Jeffries Victorian Mystery
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy
Main Character: Mrs Jeffries, a policeman's widow is Inspector Witherspoon's Housekeeper
Setting: Victorian England
Obtained Through: publisher for honest review
I have not read any of the prior 26 books in this series but it brings the reader quickly into the flow without much fuss. I liked the initial premise of this series. Mrs Jeffries likes her kind and basically good employer even though he started on the police force without making himself shine - until Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of the staff pitch in and work their networks and Inspector Witherspoon is solving the baffling cases without really understanding how he did it. He has risen in rank to Inspector and has grown as a policeman as well.
This time a self-righteous and mean spirited wealthy woman is shot in her own garden during a storm while all the servant's are at the household cook's funeral. There are plenty of suspects since Olive Kettering was even estranged from her brother and niece and all her servants despised her. Ms Kettering had recently gotten very involved with the Society of the Humble Servant led by Reverend Samuel Richards which is a scam by all accounts. But the last few months Ms Kettering swore she heard footsteps in the night and somebody was out to do her harm but nobody believed her.
This is a light and enjoyable read. The emphasis is on the cozy, with the servants and their contributions to uncovering clues and motives being the core story. These servants are a family and you are invited into their midst as they gladly jump into sleuthing on behalf of their employer Inspector Gerald Witherspoon. You will grow fond of them and want to call them friends. Each employee feels they are contributing to seeing justice truly done. Mrs. Jeffries has a relationship where the inspector respects her and likes to unwind by sharing his cases in the evening with her, allowing her to subtly drop ideas and directions for him to dig or question. This case brings danger perilously close to the household staff though.
I will gladly read another of this series when I want a lighter read. The staff are the counterpoint to the evil in the world for they care about each other and their employer and want to see true justice done. It is their delightful relationships that make the series special. Mrs. Jeffries is the investigative mastermind putting all the pieces together. The inspector comes across as a kind-hearted man who truly wants justice although he doesn't really have the stomach for looking at dead bodies. The rest of the staff you will need to meet on your own. There are newlyweds on staff who met working there and recently got married. A new employee joins them as well and it will be interesting to see how she works into the mix.
The plot had some red herrings and a basic murder setup. I figured out who the killer was and slowly worked out the how as the investigation turned up clues early on, so this is not a particularly difficult mystery. I found the strength is in the characters and the magic they create. If you enjoy a mystery where the recurring characters are old friends you want to visit, this is the book for you. The sleuthing makes the characters interesting and fun.