This is a splendid book, with all the favored elements of a British country village mystery–and some important differences. We do have an intrepid aristocratic sleuth and a valued companion, as Lord Peter has his Bunter and Albert Campion has his Lugg. But our hero is a pleasantly eccentric heroine, Lady Emily Hardcastle, and her outspoken companion is Flo, her maid. But this is the most egalitarian lady and maid you are likely to meet.
Apparently Lady Hardcastle and Flo go back quite a number of years, have traveled extensively–China and India are mentioned–and have had some exciting, not to say dangerous adventures. Lady Hardcastle has been widowed, but she seems to have more than adequate independent means. As the story opens, it is Emily’s decision to forsake London life for a quieter country existence. At least, that’s the plan, but we soon learn that adventure seems to follow Lady Hardcastle wherever she goes.
Milady and Flo are barely settled in their new home before the villagers clamor to know Lady Hardcastle better, and not long after that there is a body found in the woods. The police pick an obvious suspect, but Lady Hardcastle is convinced they are in error. So she and Flo start applying their not-inconsiderable skills to the problem at hand. Before long, there is another murder, and a jewel theft.
In this story, there is no silliness with the police telling the talented amateurs to stay out of their way. The local Inspector has the good sense to recognize that Lady Hardcastle is quite useful, and actively seeks out her assistance.
The story is engagingly told. Needless to say, the country life of milady and Flo is hardly quiet, and it would appear that the duo is just getting started on their adventures.
My thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for making a somewhat belated advance copy of this book available for me to read and review.