My thanks go out to the lovely Sarah, representing publisher Bookouture, for securing me a spot on this ‘Books On Tour’ journey.
As ever, additional thanks go out to NetGalley, for their excellent download and review service.
DEATH DOWN THE AISLE – (Lady Eleanor Swift #11)
Lady Eleanor Swift isn’t normally one for grand social occasions, but who can resist a wedding? Especially when it’s her old friend, Constance Grainger, marrying the most eligible bachelor in town, Lord Peregrine Davencourt. Eleanor is taking Gladstone the bulldog as her plus one, with a smart new bowtie to match her bridesmaid’s dress.
But the big day is ruined when the groom is arrested for murder before he makes it to the altar. In a baffling twist, it turns out he was already engaged to the lovely Daisy Balforth, who has been found dead at the local inn with Lord Davencourt kneeling over her. The gossip pages will have a field day!
The distraught bride-to-be asks Eleanor to clear her fiancé’s name, as she’s certain he wouldn’t hurt a fly. With help from handsome Detective Seldon, Eleanor examines the evidence. But she’s barely had time to write down her suspect list before Constance’s father is set upon by a bearded stranger on the golf course. Clearly there is more to this story than Eleanor first thought, but can she catch the real killer before the wedding turns into her wake?
Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century.
Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery.
They are the authors of the fabulous Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery series, set in the 1920s.
“Lady Eleanor Swift shifted uncomfortably in her seat. It wasn’t the stifling heat of the unseasonably warm September sun that made her restless. It was that all eyes in the packed room were on her. And she was acutely aware of it. Why they were however, eluded her”
“Don’t go pretending you don’t need a cuppa as much as the rest of us, Madam Chair. Fighting talk needs a wet whistle to be heard, as well you know”
“As for me, Sometimes one just meets the right person at precisely the wrong point in their lives. Or the other way round”
“They both looked to where the bulldog was already panting heavily, his tongue lolling like a slice of boiled ham, his back legs sticking stiffly out sideways. The pyramid of earth wobbling on his nose gave away the fact that the ball he had retrieved was now forever interred in one of the beds.”
“Her scrutiny of the room was far from morbid curiosity, rather the need to record any pertinent details before Sergeant Brice, head of the local police, arrived. Although his sense of duty rested in the right place, she also knew his powers of observation and his stomach for death were both firmly hidden beneath the tightly laced bindings of his stout boots. He was more at home recording stolen bicycles and other common misdemeanours of a sleepy country town than a murder”
“No, listen. I know you’re thinking that love is blind and all that, but he and Constance have a bond. A rare, magical and unshakeable bond. And that doesn’t occur unless you’ve both poured out your hearts, your dreams, your fears and every one of your weaknesses and failings to each other”
“Never fear what hasn’t happened yet, darling girl. You are always strong enough, whatever it may be”
“The society wedding of the decade has everything: the blushing bride, beautiful flowers… and the groom arrested before he can walk down the aisle?”
When I saw the title of this, the eleventh Lady Eleanor Swift, Golden Age Cozy Murder/ Mystery, I must admit to doing a small ‘double take’, almost convinced that the storyline had already appeared before. Trawling back through all my recent reviews finally calmed my fears, when I discovered that in fact a similar title had appeared in another Cozy Mystery series, by a different author. Having now read this intriguing storyline, I also realise that the idea of a story is all they have in common, as Eleanor could never manage to get caught up in a straightforward case, which doesn’t involve a complicated suspect list, a veritable shopping list of crimes, and an all but inevitable brush with both the law and near death!
In fact, this incident also made much of an old law of the land, known as “Breach Of Promise”, whereby a man could be sued if he broke off an engagement to be married (good job that one doesn’t still apply today!). There was obviously much more to this law than those few simple words and my potted explanation, so I strongly suggest you to read the short ‘history’ section at the end of the book, which explains this and other historical facts alluded to within the book’s narrative, although I always tend to seek out those additional sections and brush up on the facts, before I begin reading, but that’s just personal preference and choice.
Death, and more particularly murder, seems to follow Eleanor around, on this occasion, even as her best friend is getting married and Eleanor finds herself being trussed up in all manor of finery and frippery for the day, as one of the bridesmaids. Unfortunately, at the eleventh hour the bridegroom finds himself charged with the murder of a young lady he was once acquainted with, and without the help of Eleanor and Clifford, he looks all set to miss his own wedding. Yes, the Honourable Peregrine Davenport, may be hapless, naive and not without some blame in the overall situation; however no one, not even Eleanor’s beau, Detective Chief Inspector Hugh Seldon, really believes him to be capable of the crime of which he is accused and to be honest, looks so guilty of.
Hugh, who usually deplores the danger Eleanor constantly manages to court, has however, found it necessary to hold his counsel on this occasion, as he is desperately short of boots on the ground to cope with the ever-growing complexities surrounding Peregrine’s arrest and needs all the help he can get, especially as it transpires, with some female questioning techniques when dealing with certain witnesses and suspects. Unwittingly and conveniently, Hugh has played right into Eleanor’s hands, as she has recently joined her local branch of the WI, in a vain attempt to up her game in the aristocracy stakes. Their current struggle, protest, petition, and impending march on authority, revolves around the notion that there should be more women on the police force, their argument being that women were good enough to take on those responsibilities during WWI, whilst the men were off fighting on the front line, but now that peace has been re-established, teams of female police officers have been largely disbanded and mothballed.
These are the two separate strands of the storyline, which become inextricably woven together as the case progresses and becomes evermore complicated. The suspect list just keeps on growing, with a wide spectrum of both male and female candidates from all walks of life, finding themselves well and truly ‘in the frame’. Even Clifford’s razor sharp intellect and cunning mind is having difficulty untangling this web of lies and deceit. They do say that ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!’ so eventually it takes a bruised and battered Eleanor to work out the bare bones of the vengeful act which began this chain of interconnected events. Although the final proof of guilt and missing piece of vital evidence, was actually spotted by a very unexpected and reliable source ‘out of the mouths of babes’, so to speak.
Clifford is having his most difficult time yet, as he finds himself worrying more than he has ever found necessary before, for both Eleanor’s mental and physical wellbeing and unusually for him, begins to allow his emotions and feelings to bubble away very close to the surface. A very grateful and relieved Hugh, finally manages to untangle the mess which Peregrine managed to place himself front and centre of; commends the ladies of the WI for their invaluable help and vows to assist them all he can in their cause for female police equality; and is rewarded by the spectacle of seeing a delightfully bedecked, though far from demur Eleanor, following the bride down the aisle.
Well structured, multi-layered and highly textured, this storyline is fluently written in short, easy to navigate chapters, which keep the pace of the action non-stop and ever evolving, although I was never able to spot the real villain of the piece. In this story, revenge is definitely a dish best served cold, although past traumas do have to be allowed for, as no one really understands the fragility of the human mind, or the consequences of war, despite the outward show of bluff and bravado.
Well, once again Eleanor starts out with all good intentions of carrying out her late Uncle’s dying wish, by becoming ‘Lady Of The Manor’. She has so far inherited both the title of Lady and the stately manor to go with it, however taming her indomitable spirit and lust for adventure and thrills, into something more dignified and ladylike, is proving just one step too far for Eleanor, even with the unswerving devotion to duty by Clifford, her Uncle’s butler / valet, who was given a deathbed promise of his own to fulfil. In fact, it often appears that Eleanor’s rather bad habits are rubbing off on Clifford, rather than the other way round, as he is definitely beginning to enjoy some of the lighter, more unscripted moments of life, apart from when he is trying to stop Eleanor from getting herself killed that is, although I suspect he rather enjoys his role as an amateur sleuthing partner! In fact his ability to multi-task on all levels is truly outstanding, and his knack of knowing what Eleanor is thinking long before the notion has ever crossed her mind at all, is astounding. However perhaps not quite so surprising when Eleanor begins to wheedle small snippets of information from him, about his life before Henley Hall and how he is the self-made man she sees before her now. Regardless, all I know is that every woman needs a Clifford in her life, even if she doesn’t realise it yet!
Having secured from Hugh the reasons behind his seeming reticence to fully commit to a relationship with her, discussed the situation and reached a mutual agreement for a way forwards, things seem to be progressing at a slightly faster pace now, which suits Eleanor’s nature and makes her far more comfortable with the situation. In fact, Hugh has now taken the monumental decision to show Eleanor his own home, the house he had shared with his late wife, so I suspect it won’t be too long before the relationship comes out into the open and becomes public knowledge – please!
As ever, Eleanor’s ever faithful dog Gladstone, manages to get in on the act and joins the protest march full throttle, albeit a more unsuitable police dog you might ever have the privilege of meeting. As usual though, he can often be more of a hindrance than a help when his mistress is crime solving and trying to be as inconspicuous as possible!
As usual, Verity has created a multi-faceted, well drawn and defined cast of secondary characters, who I could clearly visualise in my minds eye, especially Lady Davenport (Peregrine’s formidable mother). Whether they are on the side of good or bad, all are authentically realistic and genuinely believable in the individual roles which have been created for them. Theirs is collectively a strong voice, with which they tell their own story, although some are more reliable witnesses, easy to connect with and relate to than others.
Whilst I could always feel quite comfortable dipping in and out of the series, as there are generally enough background story clues to bring a reader up to speed, reading book #1 would always offer that slightly more detailed insight into the history between the main protagonists, so that you can see how the synergy between them is growing and becoming stronger over time.
I read to relax, be entertained and enjoy a few hours of delicious escapism from the real world and a Lady Eleanor Swift story always sets me up, although I am always sad to see this dream team close a case and go off to get on with their own lives, leaving me to return to my own – but only until next time!
A complimentary kindle download of this book for review, was made available by the publisher and supplied by NetGalley.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!
Thank you for taking the time to read my review, I appreciate your support.