Murder at a London Finishing School

A Beryl and Edwina Mystery #7

By Jessica Ellicott

ISBN 9781496740144

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


Long before American adventuress Beryl Helliwell and prim and proper Brit Edwina Davenport teamed up as enquiry agents to solve mysteries, they attempted to unravel the mysteries of deportment and elocution. Now it’s back to school for the sleuths when murder strikes at their alma mater . . .

Neither Beryl nor Edwina are the least bit interested in attending events at their alma mater, Miss Dupont’s Finishing School for Young Ladies. Their lives are very full indeed in the village of Walmsley Parva. However, when a letter arrives from Miss Dupont herself requesting their help in a professional capacity, they reluctantly pack their bags for London.

Upon arrival, they learn from Miss Dupont that her business has seen a steep decline since the days before World War I and that now she is concerned a saboteur is attempting to damage the school’s reputation. Students have reported items missing, damaged possessions, and strange noises in the night.  Some of the girls even insist ghostly forces are at play.

Then a former classmate of theirs and mother of a prospective student is found dead on the school grounds. The roll call of suspects is long, and if Beryl and Edwina are to have a ghost of a chance of solving the murder, they can’t rule out the possibility that Miss Dupont herself may have finished off the victim . . . (from Amazon)


This is such a great mystery! I continually learn from this delightful series and enjoy looking up terms or events that I’m not familiar with. While our lives are completely different, there was something in both Edwina and Beryl with which I felt a kinship. The settings sound picture perfect, especially the gardens.

Edwina and Beryl met at Miss DuPont’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, one a proper young English lady and one an American who hated being there. Their lifelong friendship began when they were roommates and classmates. Beryl currently lives at Edwina’s family estate, where they opened Davenport and Helliwell, Private Enquiry Agency after helping the constable solve complex cases.

Edwina received an invitation to attend the school’s prospective students’ week. Included was a personal letter from Miss DuPont. She asked Edwina and Beryl to come in a professional capacity, under cover as if checking the school for a goddaughter or relative, with all due discretion. Intrigued, Beryl drove them to the school that afternoon.

Miss DuPont told them that student numbers declined before the Great War. When reopening after the war, there were fewer students as young ladies no longer wanted to attend. Lately it seemed as if someone were trying to shut their school down. Students’ personal items went missing. Some reappeared later, others did not. Moans and other distressing sounds awoke them during the night.  Students began to leave, and the current enrollment was only six. The headmistress hoped they could find who was behind the trouble before they were forced to close.

They saw Miss Glover, who was older now and still a stickler for the rules. She had an even sharper tongue that struck terror into the hearts of the meek. They were surprised to see Mary, a former fellow student, now a confident teacher of art and culture. Edwina was delighted to find Jennings, the butler, and his wife, the cook, were still there.

As they began the charade of checking the facility for Beryl’s “goddaughter”, they saw Veronica, another former classmate. Veronica was there with her daughter, Florence, who she hoped would attend the school even though she doesn’t want to. Veronica had tormented some of their classmates with incessant bullying, especially Mary. Veronica was as snarky as ever, and acted as an advisor to Miss DuPont. Veronica’s daughter was as different from her mother as night and day. She wants to become an engineer and join the family firm, Montrose Aeronautics.

Beryl and Edwina could find no cause for the disturbances. Some thought the school was haunted, which neither students nor the shoestring staff found amusing. The pair went to the grotto, where Edwina used to spend hours reading as a student, to speak privately. They were horrified to find one of their former classmates with a head wound, dead. Upon advice from one of the men, the local inspector passed it off as an accident, that the woman slipped, fell, and hit her head. Edwina and Beryl didn’t buy it.

The engaging characters come to life through the author’s expert descriptions. She captures their essences beautifully, providing far more than their physical descriptions. Some of this is done through relatable conversations and some through past and current escapades and behavior. My equal favorites are Edwina and Beryl, and I enjoy the Jennings couple as much as Edwina did. I was fascinated to see the school, past and present, through the very different views of the two friends.

Things I found enlightening included the impact of the Great War and the influenza pandemic on everything. Some decided to live for today as tomorrow wasn’t guaranteed, which led many to poor decisions. Both events contributed to low numbers at the school. The death of the former classmate, however, could shut the doors for good. Beryl and Edwina continue to look for the prankster while seeking the truth about the death. There was no shortage of suspects and motives when considering the last 24 hours of her life. The end was a total surprise, for both the death and the disturbances in the school. I was very pleased to see the outcome, and highly recommend this novel and series!