Title: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen
Lady Montford Mystery Series Book One
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 321 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher
Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it’s more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.
Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.
In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life—a superb treat for those who love British novels.
Set in the English countryside during the early 1900s, Tessa Arlen’s Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is a very intriguing mystery. This debut novel offers a unique pairing of detectives when Clementine Talbot (Lady Montford) asks her trusted housekeeper Mrs. Edith Jackson to help her investigate the troubling murder of her nephew, Teddy Mallory.
Clementine’s annual house party coincides with Teddy’s latest troubles at school and when his body is discovered the morning after the event, her guests and their servants fall under suspicion of the local constable. Clementine’s concern over her son’s altercation with Teddy the day before prompts her to ask Mrs. Jackson for her help in learning what the servants might have seen or heard during the party. Mrs. Jackson is uneasy about becoming too familiar with Lady Montford and she is equally appalled to report on her fellow servants’ conversations. But when she learns that a new maid mysteriously vanished at some point during the festivities, she puts aside her dismay and begins her investigation. At the same time, Clementine is gently probing her guests for information and the two women regularly meet to compare notes. They uncover startling revelations about Teddy’s rather nefarious activities and Mrs. Jackson follows very promising leads.
Despite the somber occasion, Clementine’s guests enjoy lavish dinners and games while the overburdened servants continue their numerous chores. The pampered and privileged upper crust frequently argue about the politics of the day and the suffrage movement is hotly debated. The differences between the classes are also brought into sharp focus as Mrs. Jackson delicately balances the unexpected blurring of class lines during her meetings with Clementine. Mrs. Jackson also must respect the hierarchy that exists between the servants and she remains very uncomfortable listening in as they gossip about their employers.
Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is a brilliantly crafted mystery and Tess Arlen successfully conceals the perpetrator’s identity right up until the novel’s conclusion. All in all, it is a very entertaining novel with an interesting mystery and fascinating peek into life during the Edwardian era and I am very eager to read the next novel in the Lady Montford Mystery series.