Monday, December 21, 2020

Review: Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey

I've long been intrigued by the American heiresses who traveled to England in search of titled husbands so combining that idea with a 1912 set murder mystery sounded completely delectable. Add in a down to earth aristocratic sister turned investigator and a humble but lovely lady's maid and the cat she's rescued and you have all of the ingredients for a pleasant, diverting read.

Danby Hall is clearly in need of funds as the slightly shabby interiors and missing possessions attest. The Earl and Countess of Avebury have invited an American heiress to the country to meet Patrick, the absent-minded, gentle scientist heir to the estate, in hopes that he and the rather trying Annabel Clarke will make a match of it, securing her fortune so they do not lose their ancestral home. All seems to be going reasonably well until a guest is murdered at a pre-party dinner they've thrown for Annabel. In order to prevent her brother from being considered the primary suspect in this crime and because she isn't entirely convinced that local law enforcement will uncover the real murderer, Lady Cecilia Bates, Patrick's level-headed and intelligent younger sister, starts investigating the crime herself with the help of Jane, Annabel's lady's maid.

The house and the relationship between the aristocracy and below stairs is well drawn. Cecilia and Jane's friendship developed very quickly, even if it was meant to show how relatable and kind Cecilia is despite her title, but it was also necessary to have an instantaneous rapport so that they could investigate both above and belowstairs equally. There are a lot of other characters in the novel all at Danby Hall for Annabel's visit but many of them have limited function in this first in the series. Perhaps they will be more integral to the overarching story as it goes on in later novels. Jack, the cat that Jane saves, who features on the cover and in the series title (The Manor Cat Series), is not really a major part of uncovering the murderer, which for me as a reader was actually welcome but might be a disappointment for those looking for a larger role for the ginger feline and the reveal of the murderer and the motivation behind it was rather predictable in the end. Despite these quibbles, this was still a fun, amateur sleuth mystery, perfect for a busy time of year.

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