This is a wonderful, readable, exciting and highly desirable book! I have many books to read, but this one kept luring me back. A novel set in 1922, published in 2018, a murder mystery set in a country house. With a full and detailed knowledge of the Golden Age Detective novel, this book has so much going for it. It is the first book in a series featuring the Honourable Melissa Charters and her husband Major Alasdair Charters, and their discovery that together they can form a formidable detective and espionage team. While a wife and husband crime fighting team is not unique, this couple face a significant issue; Alasdair is totally blind as a result of his war service. He is sometimes despairing, frustrated by his inability to cope with daily life, let alone being active in identifying what soon emerges to be a murderer in their midst.
This is more than a conventional murder mystery as there is the suggestion of espionage, especially given the period and the sensitivities of a country so recently involved in a war of so many casualties. The female characters are affected by a war in which they lost sons, lovers and potential husbands. There are fascinating descriptions of the setting, the full chintz of the huge house, contrasted with another local large establishment. Even the outbuildings receive attention, and the importance of Alasdair pacing out and being able to visualize the rooms and layout of the house. The servant problem is especially noted in the circumstances. The clothes worn by Melissa are described in delicious detail, especially as she has the good sense to wear appropriate clothing for her activities. There are also generous details of her eveningwear, which reveals not only extensive research but also a thorough creation of character. Overall there is a terrific sense of time and place in this book, a real depth of understanding of a time and a social system. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.
The book opens with a prologue in which someone hears a noise in the night which sounds significant. The focus soon moves to Alasdair and Melissa going downstairs for dinner. Much is revealed in the description of the couple as he struggles with his white tie, he wants to be independent of his valet and wife, she reflects on the long battle to get him to leave their serviced flat since his discharge from hospital after suffering his serious injury. She has wanted to visit her aunt and uncle for some time, and this weekend houseparty was originally intended to gently reintroduce her husband to society. However, it soon becomes obvious that the number of people dining has increased, as guests include some of Melissa’s cousins, military men and others. A french countess and her companion turn up, and so does an irate banker full of allegations. In a very short time a full compliment of potential victims and possible murderers is installed in the house, and a classic murder mystery is established.
I so enjoyed this book because of the honest way that Melissa and Alasdair’s relationship is described, his frustrations rather than his immediate ability to do everything easily, his vulnerability when he realises the difficulties of defending himself or his wife. Melissa’s abilities are pointed out to her husband quite early in the novel “She grew up in the countryside, crack shot, excellent horsewoman, fit, and above all, intelligent to boot”, but it is not patronising. She is eager to do something to get to the bottom of the mysteries, and her actions balance her concern to protect others in the house, especially her husband.
This is a book I can whole heartedly recommend to all, and my only question remains: how and when can I read the next one in the series?