A delightful English cozy series begins in August 1924. Lady Adelaide Compton has recently (and satisfactorily) interred her husband, Major Rupert Charles Cressleigh Compton, hero of the Somme, in the family vault in the village churchyard.
Rupert died by smashing his Hispano-Suiza on a Cotswold country road while carrying a French mademoiselle in the passenger seat. With the house now Addie’s, needed improvements in hand, and a weekend house party underway, how inconvenient of Rupert to turn up! Not in the flesh, but in – actually, as a – spirit. Rupert has to perform a few good deeds before becoming welcomed to heaven – or, more likely, thinks Addie, to hell.
Before Addie can convince herself she’s not completely lost her mind, a murder disrupts her careful seating arrangement. Which of her twelve houseguests is a killer? Her mother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Broughton? Her sister Cecilia, the born-again vegetarian? Her childhood friend and potential lover, Lord Lucas Waring? Rupert has a solid alibi as a ghost and an urge to detect.
Enter Inspector Devenand Hunter from the Yard, an Anglo-Indian who is not going to let some barmy society beauty witnessed talking to herself derail his investigation. Something very peculiar is afoot at Compton Court and he’s going to get to the bottom of it – or go as mad as its mistress trying.
The characters were the strength of this first novel in the Lady Adelaide mysteries – generally speaking. They are unique enough to be remarkable (Addie, the lady who’s sensitive to the everyday struggles of common people, and Dev, the Scotland Yard inspector with Indian ancestors, just to mention the main characters), but they are also realistic and plausible. Their unique characteristics never stretch their credibility, and this is something I appreciate very much.
There’s only one exception to this, at least for me: the ghost. Honestly, I don’t see what the ghost of Addie’s husband is adding to the story. His conversations with Addie were the most improbable thing in the book. They were meant to be funny, but to me, this somehow just made them even more unlikely and frankly jerking. The story would have worked perfectly fine even without the ghost.
But in general, the relationship between the different characters is very realistic, which lends credibility to the mystery. There’s never an over the top kind of investigations. Sometimes it happens, especially in cosy mysteries, that the needs of the story make the actual events quite unlikely compared to what normally happens in real life. Except for the ghost, this doesn’t happen here.
Still, the mystery was a problem for me. Plausible as it is, it’s also quite unimpressive. I had the definite sensation that, rather than cohesively create the story, the author created the circumstances, as well as many red herrings, then just chose the most improbable culprit and made them the murder.
I didn’t see a carefully thought-out mystery here, which is such a shame, considering how lovely and well crafted the setting and the characters were.
The ending significantly suffered for this carelessness. It came out of nothing and didn’t feel like the fitting conclusion to the story. When the culprit can be anyone, there’s something not quite working in the mystery.
Another thing that disappointed me was all the ghost thing.
But I still enjoy it for the good characterization, and the setting.
A light read good for relaxing.
Nobody’s Sweetheart Now
“Did you always want to be a policemen?”
“Not really. I wanted to be a fireman. Doesn’t every little boy? Bells ringing. So much excitement. But my father was in the Military Mounted Police in India. When he left the army and came home, he joined the Metropolitan Police Force. One might say it’s in the blood, but if I’m honest, he pushed me a bit. He thought his contacts there would provide more opportunity for me.”
Addie simply couldn’t see Inspector Hunter being forced into anything. “You didn’t rebel?”
“The joke was on me. I discovered after not too long that I loved police work – even starting out on foot patrol – and was good at it. My mixed background has been both a help and hindrance, but I’m fairly certain that would be the case anywhere.”
Addie supposed Britain, in its way, had every bit as much of a caste system as India. As a marquess’ daughter, she’s always known what her parents and society expected of her, and done her best to toe the line. It was true the world over – parents wanted the best for their children, and would do whatever they could to ensure it. Right now her mother was worried about Cee.
The Thursday Quotables was originally a weekly post created by Lisa Wolf for her book blog Bookshelf Fantasy. It isn’t a weekly post anymore, not even for Lisa, but just like her, I still love to share my favourite reads on Thursday and I still use the original template which included an excerpt.