Mrs. Jeffries Aims to Win
Victorian Mystery Series #41
By Emily Brightwell
Author Website: emilybrightwell(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Mrs. Jeffries must help Inspector Witherspoon crack a new case and catch a killer in this next installment of the beloved Victorian Mystery series.
Successful businessman Jeremy Marks wasn’t highly regarded by any of the members of the West London Archery Club. Most of them considered him a buffoon and a bore. But everyone was stunned when the fellow was murdered during a lull in the club’s annual archery competition. He’d been shot with arrows from a longbow during a raging thunderstorm.
But those who knew Marks well understood that the unkempt court jester persona adopted by the late, unlamented man was as fake as the smile he wore. As Inspector Witherspoon investigates the murder, he discovers the victim had real enemies amongst the assembled archery contestants. Marks was notorious for not paying his bills, cheating vendors, bad-mouthing business rivals, and worst of all, betraying his business partners. The dead man had built a whole career and amassed quite a substantial fortune by harming those who trusted him. It will take Mrs. Jeffries and the inspector’s household as well as their friends to sort out fact from fiction and target a killer. (From Goodreads)
Mrs. Jeffries is one of my favorite Victorian era British sleuths, one who could easily have been a detective. The widow of a policeman, Hepzibah Jeffries was Inspector Gerald Witherspoon’s delightful housekeeper. He had inherited an estate several years ago, and the home was large enough to require servants. He was excellent to work for, and those in his employ would do almost anything to help him.
Witherspoon worked in the records room of Ladbroke Station until Mrs. Jeffries joined his household. Unbeknownst to the Inspector, Mrs. Jeffries, his staff, and a couple of their friends began to help him solve homicides. They and their sources were from various backgrounds and social tiers, including his dear lady friend. Their help was invaluable, and when the inspector had a case, Mrs. Jeffries met with the group daily to discuss updates and plans.
It didn’t take many solves until Gerald had the attention of the higher ups, and he left the records room to become the inspector who solved more homicides than anyone in the Metropolitan Police Department. He is humble, unassuming, and respectful. His servants and even some of their informants fondly call him “our inspector”.
Archery was a popular sport with both men and women, and many top archers competed. The archery club in West London was conducting local competitions. The winning archers move to the next level, with the potential of going to the nationals. An all-out thunderstorm explodes during a competition, with skies as dark as night. When there was a brief lull in the storm, two archers on the back porch noticed Jeremy Marks near the targets, carrying a lantern and looking closely at the ground. They are convinced he is finding arrows to steal, some of them costly, that had not been collected when the skies opened. One minute they saw him looking at the ground, then he was lying on the ground. He had been shot with two arrows, either of which would have killed him. It would require an excellent archer to accomplish those shots with the wind speed and darkness.
Police learned quickly that Marks was not liked by anyone at the club. Due to his dishonesty, he lost his membership months earlier. He was only allowed to come in with his fiancée, a member, and would become a member again after he and Hannah got married. Even if he had not been shot, however, the wedding was off. Hannah learned several things that day from his last fiancée, including confirmation he was marrying her for her money. She became one of the top suspects; his prior fiancée was also high on the list. Marks had totally ruined families and finances of several business partners, increasing the suspect list. Even Marks’s attorney wasn’t surprised he was murdered!
I enjoyed learning about or catching up with the three-dimensional characters. With colorful backstory included about the primary people, one doesn’t need to read the entire series in order. The new or returning reader can be comfortable whether they start with the first or forty-first mystery. This time I noticed how encouraging Mrs. Jeffries is to Gerald. She can tell when his self-confidence is failing and is quick to show him how well he is doing with the mystery.
The friendship “our inspector” had with his housekeeper fascinates me. Perhaps it was because her late husband was in law enforcement, or that he recognized her as a good sounding board. When he is on a case and gets home from work, he invites her to have glass or two of sherry with him. He tells her what he learned about the case or people involved with it. When Constable Barnes, with whom he was partnered, arrived to walk to the station with Witherspoon each morning, she told him anything that the staff uncovered and he inserts it into plans with the inspector.
There were so many pieces to this puzzle, it seemed as if it wouldn’t be solved as quickly as the chief superintendent pushed for. Mrs. Jeffries had something in the back of her mind that she couldn’t quite remember on time to tell Barnes that day. When it did come together, it was quite a surprise, and happened in a such a way to injure a couple people. I was very pleased with how it ended, and highly recommend this novel and series!