Murder Most Malicious, by Alyssa Maxwell. Kensington Books. 304 pages. Hardcover $25.00.
Coral Springs resident Maxwell begins a new series with this title. Judging from what it has to offer, I predict that “Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries” will be as well received as the author’s “Gilded Newport Mysteries.” Readers will now find themselves in England on a grand estate shortly after the end of World War One. Though the western world has undergone significant change in the early decades of the twentieth century, the relationships between aristocrats and their servants as well as relationships among those in the dizzying hierarchy of below stairs staff, with all its petty distinctions, is changing quite slowly.
Though rank has its privileges, true character – good or bad – peeks through the lines of social class. So it is that nineteen year old Phoebe Renshaw (Lady Phoebe) and her somewhat older maid Eva Huntford enjoy a friendship that breaks through the restrictions of class while allowing those restrictions a modicum of respect. It is a transformation in process, the women feeling their way. Another transformation is the post-war rebuilding of a nation severely damaged by war, both materially and psychologically.
It all begins on Christmas at Foxwood Hall. There are many guests staying at the imposing mansion, most of them anticipating the engagement announcement of Phoebe’s older sister, Julia, to Henry Leighton, Marquis of Allerton. Certainly his mother, Lady Allerton, expects such an announcement. Members of the Allerton clan and others are gathered for the holiday and the engagement.
Phoebe overhears an argument between Julia and Henry that clearly suggests that there will be no engagement. Each is threatening the other. Henry vanishes. Strange gifts come into the hands of several people – each accompanied by a finger from Henry’s hand. Murder? Motive? Culprit?
Not satisfied that the professionals, Inspector Perkins and Constable Brannock, are up to the task, Phoebe enlists her maid Eva in a dangerous sleuthing adventure. The pros just can’t be right in suspecting a longtime employee, footman George Vernon. . . .
To read the entire review as it appears in the March 2, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 3 Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Murder Most Malicious