Monday, January 2, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: A Pinch of Poison by Alyssa Maxwell

I received this book for free from Netgalley. This did not influence my review.

I started the year off with a cozy historical mystery-- Book two in the series A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery: A Pinch of Poison by Alyssa Maxwell. I enjoyed the first book, Murder Most Malicious, so I was happy to see where these two amateur sleuths went next.

Lady Phoebe is the Lady half of the pair, the middle granddaughter of Lord Wroxley. Eva Huntsford, her lady’s maid, is the other. The two are good friends despite the difference in their social standing and have teamed up before to solve a murder. This time they have teamed up to work on a charity drive to raise awareness and collect goods for war veterans and widows in the towns surrounding the Wroxley estate. The local girls’ school (once attended by both Phoebe and Eva, and now attended by Amelia, the youngest granddaughter) is the sight of a celebratory dinner. After speeches, during dessert, the headmistress drops dead, the obvious victim of poisoning.

Once again, the inept Chief Inspector is called in, fortunately accompanied by Constable Miles Brannock, a man who helped solve the first murder and who is attracted to Eva. Also shortly appearing on the scene is Lord Owen, an old family friend and eligible bachelor whose interest in Phoebe is more than friendly.

There are plenty of suspects, but Eva and Phoebe can’t accuse women or students simply because they are unpleasant. The sleuths must discover a motive and look for proof. The constable is glad of their help since it would be awkward for him to have to question well-bred females. As Phoebe and Eva investigate, they learn those in the school are hiding a multitude of secrets, some poignant, some suspicious, and some dangerous.

The mystery is interesting and the women are independent-minded and clever. The male supporting players are content to step back and let the women take the lead, and the two prove up to the task once again. Eva is the more sensible and empathetic. Phoebe forges ahead with an ingrained authority and self-confidence, but has an irritating habit of immediately betraying any confidence related to her.

The books are light and readable. The characters are not particularly deep but if you’d like a cozy mystery with a Downton Abbey-esque flavor, give the series a try.

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