A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder
Countess of Harleigh Mystery #2
By Dianne Freeman
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
How far will some go to safeguard a secret? In the latest novel in Dianne Freeman’s witty and delightful historical mystery series, the adventurous Countess Harleigh finds out . . .
Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth each year, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.
Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?
Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself among them . . . (Goodreads)
A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, the sophomore entry in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series, is an enjoyable romp through London’s upper crust’s dirty laundry and murder.
Readers find this story pick up shortly after the first book A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder concludes with Lady Frances once again drawn into investigating a murder. Her friend Mary Archer is found dead and parcels containing society’s secrets discovered lead to a motive, but Mary is not the type of person to blackmail others, is she? Frances slips easily into the role of sleuth when her neighbor and “friend” George asks for her assistance going through Mary’s files. When Frances’s cousin (by marriage) Charles, who recently ended his courtship with Mary, becomes the primary suspect, the stakes are even higher to unmask the real killer. Mary’s notes lead Frances, George, and Inspector Delaney down an enlightening path of gossip to unearth an even bigger secret.
Gossip and secrets are very much the theme of this mystery, and author Freeman does a good job of presenting a historically accurate depiction of the damage a bit of tittle-tattle can do and the struggles a widowed woman like Mary would face on her own in the late nineteenth century. The mystery is well thought out and comes to a satisfying conclusion. That said, Frances rehashes the same information over and over throughout the story, and it becomes a bit tedious and boring. These moments are short lived, but they make the pace drag on here and there. I did not figure out whodunit until shortly before Frances did.
Frances is a wonderful character with sparkling intelligence and common sense. Here she does come across a bit narrow minded by latching onto one particular suspect, but she is otherwise quick and bold without veering too far away from being period correct. I do wish that either she had no children or that her daughter would appear more often. As it is, Rose seems like an afterthought. I adore George and Aunt Hetty, and Frances’s young house guest Lottie is a lovely diamond in the rough.
A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder lacks the charm of the series debut, but it is still an engaging, well plotted murder mystery. I look forward to reading many more books featuring Frances and friends.