Publication Date: April 3, 2020
Length: 300 pages
As a Mom of two very busy teens I mistakenly thought, "oh during summer I'm going to get so much reading and reviewing done!" Wrong! I'm so behind on the Historical Fiction Challenge I'm embarrassed but.....I also have found it has been great for me in a new way to feel like I'm not able to read constantly. And that silver lining is that I have discovered so many adorable, short, easy to read books, especially cozy fiction and cozy mysteries that I am enjoying these shorts bursts of reading when I can knock out a book or two in a relatively short amount of time. Normally I feel pressure to read either long books or deep, meaningful books but as I get older I'm realizing it's okay to read things that are fun and quick!
This book is a delight. It is like reading a mystery that takes place in Downton Abbey. And if you are familiar with the show you know that everyone loves Mr. Carson, the butler. In this book we have Eleanor, or Ellie, and her butler, Clifford. And his character is as sweet and clever as Mr. Carson. Ellie has arrived at her new home, the place she lived as a child, Henley Hall, to take the reins after her Uncle passed away and left it to her care. Her parents mysteriously disappeared years ago and she is on her own. Henley Hall is one of the few places with people who care about her still and where she feels somewhat welcomed, albeit a stranger as she has been away for so long. Clifford maintains his butler decorum but underneath we see a warm, protective feeling from him much like a father or guardian. Ellie does not know a lot about her parents, her Uncle, or their reasons for why she was sent away to boarding school at a young age and Clifford is her only steady link to the past. He feels a certain loyalty to her deceased Uncle though, so getting information out of him will take time. I suspect this will continue to evolve as the series progresses.
She is quickly accompanied everywhere by her Watson-like sidekick, Gladstone, the trusty bulldog, and while out on a walk her first evening at the Hall she witnesses a murder. It is far enough away that Ellie questions what she actually saw. When she tries to report it and have it investigated the next day she is perplexed to discover that the body is missing and the town Constable is not interested in her delusional tale. The only people she can get on board to help her get to the bottom of things is Clifford and a new man, Lancelot, who takes an interest in the case, and in Ellie. Being a well traveled, independent woman she has a hard time admitting she is also smitten with him.
As she continues to dig deeper into the mystery surrounding the murder she knows she saw, Ellie meets many colorful townspeople, all with their own special secrets. There's the stuffy aristocrats, the dismissive Constables and Inspectors, the quirky neighbors who have grudges with others in the area, and the housekeeping staff who serve to keep Ellie well fed, well dressed, and ready for anything. When the killer is revealed it is both entertaining and unexpected, and Ellie, Clifford, and Lancelot are in a race to save each other from harm and to find out the why behind the murder.
Is this series formulaic? Yes. Is the ending a bit too perfect? Yes. It is a lot of fun though and I am going to continue with the next book in the series. I did have a hard time at first deciding who the murderer was although towards the end I guessed correctly. But somehow with this book I didn't mind that. I loved how Clifford was always saying, "My lady" and Gladstone was always tagging along and being Ellie's sounding board. I enjoyed the insight into Ellie's thoughts as she worked through suspects and clues. Lancelot is clearly going to factor in the series as her love interest and his family was portrayed in a clever and cute way. I will enjoy picking up one of these books when I am needing a bit of sunshine in my busy week. They are comforting in that cozy mystery way!