Berkeley Publishing Group, 2007
My sister has been telling me about the Mrs. Jeffries mystery series that she has been enjoying for a while. Kaye gave me book number twenty-three in this twenty-seven-book series to see what I thought.
I know what you are thinking: twenty-seven is a lot of books and to start a series at number twenty-three is crazy. That’s probably true but let me assure you that this particular book, at least, stands alone quite nicely. The author did a superb job of letting me know who’s who without making it seem like she was repeating herself. Let me tell you what the story is about.
The series, set in England in the late 1800s, centers around Inspector Witherspoon and his household of servants. The Inspector has become known for solving tough murder mysteries but it’s actually his household staff plus assorted frieds working behind the scenes who snoop out most of the details of the crime.
Mrs. Jeffries is the housekeeper and she’s the master of organization as well as detection. For background information on victims and suspects, Mrs. Jeffries relies on the elderly cook who has an extensive network of delivery men, vendors and others.
The maid, the footman, and the coachmen are skilled at getting information out of various sources. They’ve also learned to follow people without being seen. There is also Constable Barnes who helps the Inspector with the official police business. Doctor Boswell is a police surgeon on good terms with the household and he shares his information. Together they are all a good team.
In this particular book, The Feast of St. Stephen, a rich gentleman has been poisoned during a dinner party. It looks like the poison was in a bottle of wine brought by two of the guests. But any of the other five guests and members of the rich man’s staff could have slipped the foxglove into the wine.
The story moves nicely through all the gossip and little clues surrounding the victim and the numerous suspects. It turns out the Inspector is not a bumbling comic figure at all. He can manage himself quite well. He sees to be very good at interviewing suspects. He’s just not that good at the detecting part of the job. But that’s okay because he has plenty of help. It is Mrs. Jeffries who guides the inspector toward the final solution.
The books are billed as “Mrs. Jeffries is the Miss Marple of Victorian Mystery.” My sister (also a big Agatha Christie fan) and I agree that this book has the same sort of homey feeling you’ll find in a Miss Marple story. It’s that understanding of village life and the behavior of people that we find so appealing. I like the way Mrs. Jeffries manages the case and orgnizes her little band of detectives and then subtly maneuvers the Inspector. I will definitely read another book in this series, although probably not all twenty-seven.
I was curious about the author, Emily Brightwell. It turns out she is really Cheryl Arguile who lives in Orange County, California. That’s the same area in which my sister lives. The author has dabbled in romances and young adult novels but none are in print right now. If you are interested, her website is here.
Thanks to my sister Kaye for urging me to read this one. Most of the books are available at the library. This one is available also at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)
Has anyone else read this series?