Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What I Read Last Weekend

What I Read Last Weekend . . .

Mrs. Jeffries and the Yuletide Weddings: A Victorian Mystery by Emily Brightwell

A woman is murdered at dusk in front of a fashionable residence and no one seems to have seen or heard a thing. Inspector Witherspoon and Constable Barnes get right to work trying to force the snobbish Evans family to share the truth. Downstairs at Upper Edmonton Gardens, the staff are busy preparing for Betsy and Smythe's wedding. It's finally happening and Betsy's long lost sister Nora and her husband are coming all the way from Canada for the celebration. Betsy is excited yet nervous to see her sister again. She's worried because Smythe won't tell her where they will be going on their honeymoon or where they'll be living afterwards. She feels threatened when Mrs. Jeffries hires a new maid, Phyllis, to help out during the wedding preparations. That doesn't stop anyone from doing their job and trying to find out who killed Miss Moran, Miss Evans' former governess. Miss Evans is marrying on the same day as Betsy and the Home Office wants the mystery solved by Christmas. That's a tall order for Mrs. Jeffries and friends but they're certain they can help their Inspector solve another case. 

As usual there are many suspects and lots of twists and turns. This mystery has some obvious secrets that I guessed pretty quickly. The clues seem to be there but are difficult to fit together. I couldn't figure out the motive so never figured out the killer. I was a bit surprised and saddened at the reveal. There's more of a focus on the personal story line that keeps me coming back for more. I love the characters and I was dying to know what happened and whether they could pull off a wedding, finally. I liked the dynamic between Betsy and her sister. It seemed realistic and not at all fairy tale-ish. I don't blame Betsy for being upset. I would want to know too, especially where I was going to live. It would make me anxious not to know. I like the introduction of the new maid, Phyllis. She shakes up the story a bit and adds something new. If you like the other books in the series, you'll like this one too. 

Mrs. Jeffries Speaks Her Mind

Olive Kettering is murdered in broad daylight during a terrible storm on her own property. Her servants had the day off to attend Cook's funeral. Only her carriage house lodger, Mrs. Bernadine Fox was home. She is the one who found the body and alerted the constables. Since Miss Kettering was wealthy, Inspector Jeffries gets the case. As with most of his cases, everyone seemed to hate Miss Kettering. She was a tough employer and a difficult relative. Plus, she had recently become involved with a strange religious group calling itself The Society of the Humble Servant. Miss Kettering had some very odd ideas about God and Hell that made her peaceful, religious scholar nephew very upset. Would someone murder over religion? She's also disowned her niece for marrying an impoverished artist. Is money the motive? What about the bizarre noises Miss Kettering claimed to hear at night? Was it her imagination or something more sinister? Is the Reverend Mr. Richards for real or is he a confidence trickster like everyone believes? What of his wife, supposedly confined to a wheelchair? There are many roads to follow and only one leads to the killer. Can Inspector Witherspoon catch the killer? His staff are determined he will. Meanwhile, Betsy feels even more threatened by the continued presence of Phyllis. She's cranky, irritable and miserable all the time. Smythe does his best to make her happy but he doesn't know what's wrong or how to fix it. Mrs. Jeffries is terribly worried about a lot of things and isn't afraid to speak her mind to set things right.

I guessed who the killer was right away but then I forgot about that character and focused more on the clues Witherspoon was following. I knew what the key to the mystery was and as soon as the pieces of the puzzle fell into place I figured it out. I expected at least Mrs. Goodge to have picked up on something and even Mrs. Jeffries to encourage the Inspector to pursue that line but she didn't. They had a hard time picking up on the motive but to me it made sense given the clues they uncovered. This mystery isn't over until the very end. It has an extra twist that none of the rest of the books have. I like the uniqueness and the more realistic feeling it gives. I felt kind of sorry for the murderer in the end because of the circumstances that led them to commit such a horrible crime. I didn't like the personal aspect of the story. Betsy annoyed me so much. I guessed immediately what was wrong with her because of the ever present stereotype that exists in books to clue the reader in. I hate that and I didn't like how her personality changed. I can see why she was nervous and felt threatened but it wasn't fun to read. It also got a bit repetitious reading about Betsy's moods over and over again. There's also a lot of social and religious commentary on common beliefs at the time. It helps set the time period and place but isn't really relevant to the story. I liked when Mrs. J had the courage to speak her mind. Some of what follows is very implausible but I'm glad she said what she was thinking. I'm still enjoying the series and I'll be sad when I finish the latest one and will be eager for more!

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