Thursday, November 7, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Mrs. Jeffries Dusts for Clues by Emily Brightwell -- Historical cozy Mystery

After solving the Slocum murder case, the Inspector's servants gain an underground reputation for being excellent sleuths. Their neighbor, Luty Belle, comes to them with a mystery to solve. She's worried about her friend Mary who hasn't been seen in two months. Mary, a maid, was last seen headed to her new job. When workers building a new underground tunnel discover a body buried in a cellar, Inspector Witherspoon is assigned the case. Mrs. Jeffires feels the body is the missing Mary but local gossip turns up another missing girl: Mary's acquaintance Cassie. Cassie, a shopgirl, is supposed to be lawfully married but the servants have their doubts. If they can find her, they can figure out what happened to Mary. The investigation is tricky because they must deal with recalcitrant upstairs folk who don't want their secrets known. Feeding the information they find to the Inspector is nearly as difficult but with luck and skill, Mrs. Jeffries will help solve the case. I found it really easy to figure out what happened to the two girls and which one had been killed. It was very obvious from the clues and Mrs. Jeffries should have figured it out. It wasn't obvious who the killer was but I figured that too. There were clues Mrs. Jeffries could have picked up on. She solved the murder with one random "ah-ha!" moment that I felt was just too coincidental. The secondary characters are very stereotypical. Luty Belle is supposed to be a Molly Brown type and the employers all fit the stock stories of 19th century upper class people. The story kept me interested and I liked how the lives of working class women and advances in science were worked into the story. If you liked the first book in the series, you'll like the second one.

The Ghost and Mrs. Jeffries by Emily Brightwell -- Historical cozy Mystery

Mrs. Abigail Hodges returns home to an empty house. Her husband is accompanying a spiritualist medium to the train station and apparently he gave the servants the night off without consulting her. She's a bit nervous to be alone because of the medium's warning, but she tries to shake it off as she readies herself for bed. Before she can fully unbutton her dress she's shot dead. The Inspector is given the case, despite the fact that it appears to have been a burglary. He insists that the case is very simple: trace the stolen jewels and find the murderer. However, Mrs. Jeffries points out that only three trumpery items were stolen and they weren't worth much. Then Constable Barnes discovers a clue that may mean the case isn't so simple after all. Behind the scenes, the servants are on the job; each one doing what they do best to uncover the clues. It seems Mrs. Hodges wasn't well liked by many and it's quite possible someone close to her was the killer. Mrs. Jeffries has an uneasy feeling about this case and it takes every bit of cunning and skill she and her staff possesses, plus some help from friends to solve the murder. This is the best of the mysteries I've read so far. Even though I guessed who the murderer was right away (it was SO obvious), I thought perhaps I may have been on the right track but not have all the facts. It took a lot of sleuthing to uncover all the facts which made the mystery a little harder to conclude. I especially liked that this one involves a lot of specific period history. There's information about women's property laws in America vs. England; how British women were demanding equal rights; spiritualism and seances and graverobbing. All of that really made the story feel more Victorian. Some of the others try too hard to tell the audience when the story takes place and I appreciated the facts being a part of the mystery rather than just placed randomly into the story. This book also contains a lot of humor to lighten a dark mystery and introduces the dog, Fred. I'm a sucker for a cute dog so he adds bonus points in my mind. I'd give this mystery 4/5 stars.

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