In the Market for Murder – A Lady Hardcastle Mystery by T E Kinsey – Emily and Flo investigate rural crime

In the Market for Murder (Lady Hardcastle Mystery): Kinsey,  T. E., Knowelden, Elizabeth: 9781531877941: Books

In the Market for Murder by T E Kinsey 

Lady Hardcastle and her companion Florence return for a new story of murder, crime and very funny dialogue set in Spring, 1909. Flo recounts a story of country life at its least quiet, as a suspicious death suggests foul play, a theft in a rugby club and a dodgy seance. This second book reintroduces a pair of amateur sleuths who involve themselves in cases where the local police fear to tread. Although the second in a series, it can be read as a standalone with ease once the unique relationship between the women is understood – a Lady and her companion or servant have been through a lot together in foreign climes, now they have moved to a large house in the country for a quiet life which they have not quite achieved. Their adventures, faithfully recorded by Florence who grew up in a circus and who therefore has a surprising set of skills, take place in an area where their friend, police Inspector Sunderland has warned them that an unusually large number of murders occur. Aided and abetted by their friends Lord and Lady Farley-Stroud, Bert the punctual driver and Daisy the barmaid among others, their investigations are regarded as innovative, with a crime board and the acquisition of transport. An exciting and funny novel emerges when the plot sometimes takes second place to the lively discussions between the main characters, and the forces of crime and deceit do their worst in the English countryside.

The novel begins with the signs of a full recovery from injury by Lady Emily Hardcastle from injuries suffered in the previous years. Florence is so pleased to have her friend restored to health, even if she is a bit dubious of taking a walk in the country where there may be “Cows. Big beasts. Unruly.Dangerous.”. Emily promises to protect her “tiny servant”, her usual endearment for Flo, “with the Cow – Nobbling Stick of Doom.” or her walking cane. Florence retorts with “You may very well mock, my lady…But–” “May I? Oh, you’re so sweet. I shall.”. This is the sort of exchange that appears throughout the book, as affection and mutual respect is expressed in very amusing dialogue. When Lady Farley-Stroud invites Emily and Flo to a market in a country town, Flo lays aside her fears of farm animals as the pair are introduced to the local characters, including many farmers with local adjoining properties. A week later one of the farmers falls face forward into his meat pie in the public house, and Emily and Flo decide to use their considerable abilities to subtly investigate. Meanwhile a drunken evening with Hector ends in an apparent break in with some convenient clues. When a gathering in the local pub seems to result in the appearance of an accusing ghost, the whole sequence of events seem to suggest there is a lot going on in the area.

This is a well written book which uses comedy and other unusual elements to create a very entertaining crime based novel that definitely tends to the “cosy” type. Kinsey has created characters and a situation to revel in, while picking up on the understated historical context.  I really enjoy the “Lay Hardcastle Mysteries” and recommend them to anyone who is looking for a gentle and well written series.

A Quiet Life in the Country by T E Kinsey – Lady Hardcastle and Florence embark on a career of criminal investigation

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A Quiet Life in the Country by T.E. Kinsey

Lady Emily Hardcastle and her associate Florence Armstrong have had an exciting past which this funny and well written book merely hints at throughout. In this first volume in the series of murder mysteries set in the early part of the twentieth century, the two women have just arrived in the countryside, keen to experience a quieter life. Florence is officially Lady Castle’s maid, and she has organised a suitable amount of food and supplies for their arrival, but beyond her domestic duties she is also an expert in martial arts and well able to blend in with the staff of any establishment. The two women find themselves getting involved in local life, and death, at top speed,and this develops into a cosy crime experience unlike any other. This book revels in the relationship between the two women, as they sometimes opt to appear mistress and maid, before indulging in friendly insults. Kinsey has created two characters that really entertain, and a cunning mystery or two as well. I enjoyed how Florence deals with those who annoy her, and her general resourcefulness. This is an excellent read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It is when Lady Emily and Florence are walking one morning that they find the body of a young man hanging in a wood. The immediate reaction from the local police is that it was suicide, but the two women are not convinced. Lady Emily soon receives invitations to the houses of the local gentry, especially when they are vaguely connected from previous times. They soon find out some of the local gossip from both above and below stairs, as Florence gives a hand in with the servants, and Lady Emily behaves reasonably well with the upstairs family. They are invited to a party to celebrate an engagement between two of the local houses, and as Lady Emily gathers an audience of admirers, Florence is able to move around the house and find out what is really going on. A band playing popular music proves popular, but it is the following morning that the police disturb Lady Emily’s somewhat fragile state with a need for help. They soon inveigle their way into the investigation, and encounter the very able Inspector Sunderland. Florence is on top form when dealing with an unwanted advance, and thinks creatively. 

This book is possibly not the most historically accurate murder mystery, and the women acknowledge within it that their relationship is unusual, to say the least. It emerges that Lady Emily has made quite a study of investigating crime using crime boards. As people are less likely to suspect that two admittedly eccentric women are properly investigating, they learnt the most significant things from gossip and those eager to talk. I really enjoyed their encounters with one or two of the local gentry, and some of the characters who attend the party. Recognised as useful for off the record investigation, there is obviously much more to discover about this remarkable pair.  As hinted at by Inspector Sunderland, the area in which Lady Emily and Florence have decided to live is a particular hot spot for crime, and consequently there are more novels in the series to come!