Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

Mrs. Jeffries and the Best Laid Plans

The firefighters call in the police when they come to fight a fire and discover a dead body who didn't die as a result of the fire. A crafty killer only wanted it to look that way. Lawrence Boyd, a wealthy industrial banker, philanthropist and amateur artist was not a pleasant man. He seems to have made an enemy of everyone who knew him but was it enough to want him dead? Why did someone want him dead is the big question. Everyone seems to be a suspect but who really had the motivation? The Inspector's servants and friends must be careful in their investigation for Inspector Nivens is hot on their heels and determined to bring down their beloved Inspector. Betsy and Smythe are getting closer to the big day. Betsy is fretting about wedding plans and Mrs. Jeffries and Mrs. Goodge are dong their best to help destress her. Then a mysterious visitor from someone's past arrives to shake up life in Upper Edmonton Gardens. Will anything ever be the same again?

The mystery was very difficult to figure out. There were really too many suspects in the plot and I lost track of who was who. I guessed something might be a clue but I didn't figure out "whodunnit" until the murderer slipped up. It seemed like a very strange and insignificant reason for murder. There were some really nice details in this book about period fashion and weddings which I really liked. The story ends in a cliffhanger with a major character departing! I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Mrs. Jeffries &The Feast of St. Stephen

Sir Stephen Whitfield gathers his closest acquaintances for a special holiday dinner and a big announcement. Before he can make his announcement, he drops dead into the soup. Naturally his guests assume he had a heart attack but Dr. Bosworth, summoned from his lodgings across the street, feels otherwise. Indeed there is evidence of poison in Sir Stephen's wine. Since Basil and Maria Farringdon gifted the wine to Sir Stephen, they should automatically be the chief suspects, but Inspector Witherspoon doesn't like to jump to conclusions. Mrs. Jeffries and the staff are looking forward to solving the mystery before Christmas which the Home Office says is the deadline. With Smythe back from Australia the staff are ready to investigate. Betsy is glad for the distraction from her pain and humiliation. She still loves Smythe but she isn't sure she can ever forgive him for leaving her. Can the staff solve the mystery before someone else is given the case? Will Betsy and Smythe ever get back together?

This is a very complicated mystery. I picked up on clues but couldn't put them together properly. Nothing made sense to Mrs. Jeffries, the Inspector or to me. It seems that anyone could be a suspect because as usual, Sir Stephen didn't have a lot of people who liked him. There are some complicated details in this story I didn't really understand, not to mention the fact that I don't know anything about wine. I did pick up on Maria Farringdon's trick. My dad does that sometimes LOL! There aren't a whole lot of specific period details. They're more subtle such as social etiquette and legal matters.The personal relationship stuff was irritating. I like nice, neat happy endings and I didn't think Betsy was fair to Smythe. I do get where she's coming from given her past history and I understand what he was thinking as a man. I wish they'd stop squabbling but as Shakespeare once said "The course of true love never did run smooth." Some backstory for some of the characters is revealed a bit more which I liked. Also, the Inspector's character is developed more. He's not quite so dim witted, he just needs to learn to trust himself. I like watching him develop and come into his own, especially when dealing with Inspector Nivens. There's not a lot of humor in this story but I liked it anyway. 

Mrs. Jeffries Holds the Trump

Dr. Bosworth is shocked to discover the body delivered for a postmortem was someone he knew, a medical supply company owner named Michael Provost. The man didn't have any family and as far as Dr. Bosworth knows, he lived simply and didn't have any reason to fall into or throw himself into the river. When Dr. Bosworth discovers evidence of murder, he meets with resistance from the police force. (One guess as to who was in charge that day). The good doctor turns to Mrs. Jeffries for help but they needn't worry because Mr. Provost's housekeeper also believes foul play was involved and got Provost's solicitor to convince the police to open a murder investigation. The investigation isn't easy because Michael Provost didn't have any heirs and everyone loved him. He belonged to a club but only to play whist and no one there seems to have known him well. The housekeeper believes that her employer got himself killed because he was playing amateur detective like Sherlock Homes. He was searching for his missing friend Ernie Grigson. Mrs. Jeffries is convinced if they figure out what happened to Grigson, they can determine who killed Provost. The case hinges on some crucial evidence that's gone missing. Can Inspector Witherspoon find the evidence and solve this case? Will Mrs. Jeffries figure it out without the missing evidence? Meanwhile, Smythe is dying to marry Betsy but she's still not in a forgiving mood. He's trying to give her some space but "blast a Spaniard" he loves her and can't live without her.

This is a very complicated mystery. There weren't any obvious clues dropped anywhere that I picked up on. The servants all did an excellent job with their investigation yet it seemed like this case might go unsolved until the very end. I commend the author for coming up with another unique plot. Inspector Witherspoon is back to being dimwitted but I liked the way he handled himself with Nivens. It was very classy and gave me more respect for him. I felt sorry for the servants when they discover that the victim was an amateur sleuth and popular opinion is against the idea. They're good at what they do because they know who to talk to and how to get information out of people in a way the police don't. That's what's so special about them and their investigations. There's some lighthearted moments especially when Luty Belle and Hatchet are fighting as usual. There's even a bit of romance as the couples come closer to being together. The period details are subtle and show how things have changed for the lower classes and women in the last 50 years. However, the author is looking back from a modern American standpoint and that makes the story just a tiny bit preachy though in a good way. I like how Mrs. Goodge is the representative of the older generation and her character growth parallels what was happening nationally at that time. This is one of the better mysteries in the series. It works as a standalone but it's better if you read the last few in order so you know the characters and what's been happening with them. I can't stop reading this series because I feel so invested in the characters and their lives. If you love the downstairs characters in Downton Abbey you will love this series. 

Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time

Francis Humphreys, an elderly train enthusiast, gathered his family and friends for tea,  then failed to come downstairs. The family believed he was merely becoming senile until they heart a gun shot. There was no doubt about the fact that Francis Humphreys was dead. Who could have shot him while everyone was downstairs? Inspector Witherspoon is placed on the case despite being out of his district. Constable Barnes is reassigned when Inspector Nivens' young nephew uses his political connections to tag along. Constable Gates proves a big trial for Inspector Witherspoon. Will he ever get this case solved with that pompous young pup tagging along? Mrs. Jeffries is puzzled by this case. There seems to have been plenty of motive:  wealthy, elderly man with a parcel of impoverished relatives relying on his money - they've seen that before but this case is complicated by the fact that the money came from the late Mrs. Humphreys, an American heiress and there is some dispute over the division of the estate. Lady Cannonberry rushed home to help. Will her gossipy acquaintances provide the key? Will Mrs. Jeffries figure it out without help from Constable Barnes? Smythe and Betsy have finally set a date for their wedding, so something is going right at least. Smythe wants to give Betsy the one thing her heart desires and for that he needs some help from Blimpey and plenty of money. He'd not see Betsy hurt for the world and pleasing her means everything to him. Can he find what she needs in time for the wedding? 

This mystery is complicated yet I figured it out before Mrs. Jeffries. I suspected some things in the beginning but I was off a bit. I also suspected someone from their words and actions early on but it didn't seem possible. Once Inspector Witherspoon learns the pertinent information, he begins to suspect what I immediately figured out. There's a sweet romantic subplot between Smythe and Betsy and hints that the Inspector and Lady Cannonberry are becoming closer. She cares about him very much and that's obvious by her actions rather than being spelled out. The author knows how to keep it subtle, simple and sweet. The story ends with a bit of a cliffhanger which I did not like. I especially like the characters in this series. They're like family to me now. I love how fleshed out the characters have become. Inspector Witherspoon is still sweet and innocent but he shows that he won't allow himself to be walked all over. He reveals his reasons for being so patient and kind by quoting Scriptures. This I did not like but the Golden Rule is a good one to live by. I also liked seeing another side to Nivens. It makes him more realistic and less of a stock character. It was good to introduce a new character to shake things up a bit and keep the series from going stale. Gates is super annoying. He's pompous, rude and spoiled. He makes a great foil for Witherspoon. This book is another great entry into this series.

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