Mrs. Jeffries Demands Justice
A Victorian Mystery, Book #39
By Emily Brightwell
Author Website: emilybrightwell(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Mrs. Jeffries always keeps her friends close and now must keep an enemy even closer if she is going to catch a killer. . . .
Inspector Nigel Nivens is not a nice man or a good investigator. In fact, he’s terrible at his job and has always done everything he can to make life difficult for Inspector Witherspoon. But even his powerful family can’t help him after he maliciously tried to hobble Witherspoon’s last homicide investigation. He’s been sent to a particularly difficult precinct in the East End of London as penance.
When a paid informant is found shot in an alley, Nivens thinks that if he can crack the case, he’ll redeem himself and have a much-needed chance at impressing his superiors. But there’s one big problem with his plan–Niven’s distinct antique pistol is found at the scene of the crime and even more evidence is uncovered that links the Inspector to the murder.
Despite their mutual dislike for Nivens, Mrs. Jeffries and Inspector Witherspoon know the man isn’t a cold-blooded killer. Now they’ll just have to prove it. (Goodreads)
I was so happy to see our old friends, Inspector Gerald Witherspoon, Mrs. Jeffries, and his staff and friends again! Constable Barnes sees housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries as the best detective he has ever known, but she refuses credit. What a treasure she is!
This novel is a delight for those who enjoy historical cozy mysteries set in the late 1880’s London. I enjoy watching the household staff find clues in the background and Inspector Witherspoon, whose lifestyle is one of inherited wealth but never puts on airs. The inspector and his assistant, Constable Barnes, are hard-working, thoughtful investigators who solve some of the most difficult murders in London.
On a chilly spring Monday evening in the East End of London, an iceman who also delivers flowers is murdered. Left beside his body is an antique flintlock dueling pistol recently seen by the officers at the Leman Street Station. It is part of a set inherited by Inspector Nivens, who had shown the pair off to co-workers a few days earlier after a repair was made to one of them. Bert Santorini, the iceman, had been an informant of Nivens, recently helping Nivens put away the O’Dwyer brothers for several burglaries. A lad was paid to go to the worst of the local papers, The Sentinel, with information about the murder with a hint that police was protecting one of their own. Scotland Yard wants it solved now.
There are few detectives as disliked as Inspector Nigel Nivens. His family has friends in high places that, not long ago, helped him keep his job despite a major error in a recent case. He has an arrogance not befitting a public servant. The men who work with him and for him, as well as the thieves and informants he deals with, share in their dislike of him.
Nivens claims to be totally innocent but has no alibi for the time of the murder. He knows how unpopular he is; few cops would ever look beyond him to find who the real murderer is. When Gerald Witherspoon, accompanied by Constable Barnes, begins to investigate, Nivens doesn’t feel much hope; he has betrayed Witherspoon a couple times.
Mrs. Jeffries knows this murder troubles the inspector. Witherspoon doesn’t care for Nivens, but he does care for justice, as do Mrs. Jeffries and the staff. One day when the staff is meeting with the results of what they learned, Nivens shows up, wanting to talk with them. He said that people at the station think they are who really investigate and help Witherspoon solve all the murders he does. They denied their involvement multiple times, in multiple ways. He pleads for their help, as he knows he will hang if the real killer isn’t found, but they declare they are only servants. Mrs. Jeffries is also terribly troubled about the case, as Chief Superintendent Barrows will only give Witherspoon and Barnes a couple more days to solve it or arrest Nivens.
Catching up with the characters was such a delight! They are well-defined, even to being able to picture them. Learning about Betsy’s background was eye-opening and makes me appreciate her more. Mrs. Jeffries is my favorite character, as she really does have a way of thinking that helps her put the bits and pieces of information together. She is a natural encourager, of their inspector and of the staff. When any one person feels they had little success getting information, she considers what they do learn throughout the case, and tells them one never knows what bit they bring in that will solve it.
I was immediately welcomed into this mystery. The pace is steady throughout much of the novel, at which time it speeds up like a runaway horse through to the end. The series does not have to be read in order to be fully satisfying; each can be read as standalones. The staff learns over the course of days that the iceman has more than his share of enemies, from people he lied about to send to prison to ex-lady friends. This was quite the challenge to solve! The end was perfect, with no leftover clues or questions. I highly recommend this wonderful mystery. It is fascinating to see the historical period and how murders are solved in a time without internet or even telephones and much of the information learned is to be remembered and written up by hand.