Death of an Unsung Hero
Lady Montfort, Book #4
By Tessa Arlen
Author’s website: tessaarlen.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
Lady Montfort and her pragmatic housekeeper Mrs. Jackson investigate a murder of a WWI officer with amnesia in the 20th-century English countryside.
In 1916, the world is at war and the energetic Lady Montfort has persuaded her husband to offer the dower house to the War Office as an auxiliary hospital for officers recovering from shell-shock with their redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson contributing to the war effort as the hospital’s quartermaster.
Despite the hospital’s success, the farming community of Haversham, led by the Montfort’s neighbor Sir Winchell Meacham, does not approve of a country-house hospital for men they consider to be cowards. When Sir Evelyn Bray, one of the patients, is found lying face down in the garden with his head bashed in, both Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have every reason to fear that the War Office will close their hospital. Once again the two women unite their diverse talents to discover who would have reason to murder a war hero suffering from amnesia.
Tessa Arlan’s Lady Montfort mystery series gets better with each book release, and Death of an Unsung Hero is everything you could want in a historical mystery. Full of well researched rich, historical detail, interesting and well developed characters, and a murder mystery with plenty of suspects and twisty revelations, it is a satisfying trip to WWI era England.
Death of an Unsung Hero takes place two years after the last book in the series, Death by Any Other Name. It is 1916 and World War I is in full force, but the ramifications of war are only beginning to be apparent. Lord and Lady Montfort volunteer Haversham Hall as a hospital for soldiers, those suffering the effects of shell shock, until they are cleared to return to active duty. Not everyone is happy about the auxiliary hospital in their backyard, but the doctors are confident that their therapies will help the wounded recover. I found this early look at psychiatric therapy fascinating. When one of the patients, Cpt. Sir Evelyn Bray is murdered, the unlikely and dynamic team of Lady Montfort and her housekeeper turned hospital maven Mrs. Jackson are on the case, and time is of the essence to find answers before the War Office arrives for the hospital’s inspection. The investigation leads them to more murders and a secret that the murderer is willing to kill to keep.
I have enjoyed all of the books in this series and feel like I have gotten to know Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson fairly well, but the periphery characters, mostly the family, have remained thinly veiled. In this book, we get to see much more of two of Lady Montfort’s children, as well as Lord Montfort, and I enjoyed the family dynamic. Lord Montfort is quite supportive of the pair’s investigating and endearing in his obvious affection for his wife. Son Harry is on leave recovering from a broken arm, but he too has some inner demons that have followed him home. Lady Althea is finding herself in the freedom that the war has necessitated leading the local ladies land effort. I am confident that Lady Montfort’s inner dialogue about her concerns for her daughter’s activities and dress are true to aristocratic mothers of the era.
Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson make a good team. Where Mrs. Jackson is practical and logical, Lady Montfort is more intuitive. Each is able to use their places in society to their investigating advantage, and their strengths play well off of each other. As I learned more about Cpt. Bray, I felt sorry that his life was needlessly cut short. An irresponsible playboy before the war, he found his calling as a leader and was a war hero before his untimely death. Though the other hospital patients are suspects, I really rooted for them all to be innocent. The mystery unfolds at a mostly steady pace, though it does lag a bit in the middle, only to reach an exciting revelation at the end.
I enjoyed Death of an Unsung Hero and recommend it to any fan of historical mysteries.