My thanks go out to Noelle, representing publisher Bookouture, for saving me a place on this lovely ‘Books On Tour’ schedule.
I also need to thank the great NetGalley team, for always making life so easy when downloading review copies.
MURDER AT THE WEDDING – (Miss Underhay Mystery #7)
1934. Kitty Underhay steps out of the battered Rolls Royce and onto the gravelled driveway of Thurscomb Castle in deepest Yorkshire. She’s honoured to be a bridesmaid at her cousin Lucy’s wedding to the reluctant Lord Rupert Woodcomb, but as family and friends gather for welcome drinks, Kitty dodges intrusive questions about her own marital status by taking a stroll about the castle grounds. As she passes through the manicured gardens, a fatal shot rings out…
The valet, Evans, is dead. And Kitty can’t help but notice how rattled the man standing next to him seems. Could Rupert’s best man, The Right Honourable Alexander ‘Sandy’ Galsworthy, believe the speeding bullet was meant for him?
When she discovers that Sandy has been receiving blackmail notes, Kitty suspects that one of the assembled guests has plans to make good on their threats. The local constabulary won’t act on Kitty’s hunch, so, busy with her bridesmaid’s duties, she asks her beau, ex-army captain Matthew Bryant, to help.
The ceremony passes without a hitch. But when an anxious Sandy slips away during the dancing, Matt follows, only to make a hideous discovery: Sandy is dead, flattened on the terrace by some falling masonry.
Now the duo are sure that there is a murderer within the castle walls. But can they untangle Sandy’s final hours and catch this killer before they strike again, or will the wedding bells be replaced by a death knell for Kitty herself…?
Happily married to the same man for over thirty five years, she has three beautiful daughters, a tank of tropical fish, a crazy Cockerpoo, and a cactus called Spike.
Helena is a registered nurse, midwife and health visitor with a strong interest in dementia and end of life care.
Her hobbies include architecture, music, live theatre and green issues.
As a multi-award winning and best-selling author of contemporary romantic fiction, Helena was the winner of the RNA’s Romance Prize in 2007 with Marrying Max, and Love Story of the year in 2010 with Animal Instincts.
She now also writes historical Cozy crime, set in the 1930’s.
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TORBAY HERALD – MAY 1934
Net finally closing in on wanted man!
Exeter police reported today that they were close to capturing Ezekiel Hammett, wanted for the murder of Denzil Hammett in the city before Christmas. The public are reminded not to approach Hammett but to report any sightings at the nearest police station.
EARLY MAY 1934
‘Tis a good thing we’re nearly done, miss, the light is going a bit now.’ Alice settled back on her haunches and gave the newly pinned hem of Kitty’s frock a critical frown.
Kitty stepped down from her position on the footstool where she had been balanced while her friend had adjusted her new dress. ‘Thank you, Alice. I don’t know what I’d do without you.’
The sunshine from earlier in the day had now declined and the shadows on the walls of her grandmother’s salon in the Dolphin Hotel had grown longer. The loss of the sunshine had also brought an increase in the chilly breeze blowing toward the hotel from the river, rattling the leaded panes in the large bay window. An elegant cream embossed wedding invitation was propped up on the mantelpiece beside the clock and a small fire crackled merrily in the hearth.
‘Well, I blame Matt. I never used to keep tripping over bodies until I met him.’ Kitty laughed.
“Kitty’s independence and forthright views didn’t sit well with his parents’ more traditional views of marriage and a woman’s place in society”
“He had seen too many deaths in the suffocating, muddy trenches of the battlefield when the shoring had failed. He had witnessed the loss of men and horses buried under the sticky mud. Even now, so many years later, he would occasionally awake from a nightmare to discover he had wrecked the room in his sleep or walked about the house”
“Lord Woodcomb has made me aware of your reputation, Miss Underhay, as some kind of amateur sleuth. Whatever they may tolerate in Devon, I can assure you it is not the same here in Yorkshire. I would suggest you leave any idea of investigating to the professionals”
“I’m starting to wonder how Inspector Lewis ever became a policeman let alone an inspector after our meeting with Mr Whitlock. I’m starting to think he could not investigate his way out of a paper bag”
“It was all very well Kitty demanding her right to determine her own destiny and actions. She kept reminding him that she was a modern, independent woman, but not when it meant that those who cared about her, loved her, had to watch and worry”
“Kitty could see sincerity mingled with trepidation in his gaze and she knew for certain that he did indeed see her as his equal, however much he might struggle with the need to look after her”
“’Till death do us part may come sooner than they thought…”
This is one of two ‘Golden Age’ mystery series I am totally invested in right now and they are both set apart by their strong and feisty female lead characters, who are streets ahead of their times in the female independence and equality stakes and who don’t hold on too strongly to all the traditions and accepted social mores of the times.
Kitty Underhay, does have something of a personal history, which has cameoed in all her investigations to date, as she crosses paths time and again with her nemesis, usually when he is trying to bump her off, which annoyingly for him he hasn’t managed to achieve so far, although once or twice it has been a close call! However, any past events were woven so seamlessly into the current storyline where appropriate, that I never felt as though I was missing out, neither did I ever get to point where explanations in any way threatened to overwhelm the present investigation, making the individual books eminently readable as stand alone stories, although I guarantee you will definitely become addicted to Kitty Underhay and will soon have the entire series all lined up to read!
The action in previous episodes of the series, has hitherto taken place in Kitty and Matt’s home county of Devon, where, whilst they don’t altogether agree with the interfering ways of amateur sleuth, Kitty, during an investigation, Inspectors Pinch and Greville have built up a certain grudging respect for her astute ways, sharp mind and often acerbic tongue. It also helps Kitty’s case that she is in a relationship with widower and registered Private Investigator, Matt, who often finds himself acting as a buffer between Kitty and the law! However we now find Kitty and Matt totally out of their comfort zone in rural Yorkshire, attending the wedding of Kitty’s cousin, so when the almost inevitable happens and a double murder threatens to spoil the future of the happy couple, Kitty and Matt find themselves at loggerheads with the dour and rather uninspiring, Inspector Lewis, who wants nothing more than the most speedy solution to the case possible.
The chapters are kept to a length where the travel of the story is both fluid and evenly paced, so whilst wonderfully descriptive narrative and dialogue are among the most endearing features about this series, with the author’s skilled imagery adding real depth and range, there is never a wasted word or gesture, making this multi-layered, well structured, traditional mystery storyline from the 1930s, highly textured, rich in atmosphere and totally immersive from the word go. Some skilled and assured plot building throws up more than enough twists and turns, as Kitty and Matt try to get to the bottom of what transpires to be a potentially treasonous scandal of epic proportions, with reverberations and consequences which have the power to topple governments and change the face of British politics. Whilst I did manage to narrow down my own suspect list to somewhere near the right mix of characters, I certainly didn’t unravel all the whys and wherefores of this nefarious and duplicitous little gang; which, even had I succeeded would have all been in vain anyway, when the ‘official’ version of events was so manipulated as to distract attention from the grubby truth – Some things never change, even after almost a hundred years of ‘progress’!
A cast of well developed, multi-faceted characters, collectively added a strong voice and a realistic sense of time and place to the storyline, and although not all were likable, or reliable witnesses by any stretch of imagination, they all remained authentic and true to their roles throughout. There may have appeared to be quite a profusion of characters populating this drama, however, true to any worthy ‘Agatha Christiesque’ plot, once they were all safely gathered in one place, the pieces of the jigsaw began to slot neatly into place for Kitty and Matt, as the closely woven threads of this tissue of lies began to unravel.
Kitty and her maid come companion, Alice, together with Matt, make a formidably addictive and ever evolving team, who are relatable and easy to connect with. The synergy and dynamics between them works really well, making them genuine and believable. I read for all the escapism, enjoyment, entertainment and emotion a good storyline and engaging cast of characters can offer and this little trio tick all those boxes for me.
This time Kitty finds herself trapped in one of her most perilous situations yet and although Matt has plucked up the courage to make all the correct representations to the appropriate people, he is left wondering if a future with such a free-spirited and controversially independent forward-thinking woman, who expects and demands equality in a relationship, is really one he can handle. I am so pleased I was able to be a ‘fly on the wall’ when Matt reached his final decision, but what was Kitty’s response?
Might it be the last we shall see of the dastardly Hammett and his sister, Esther and will Kitty be able to wrest the truth about her mother’s fate from him, to help her set her mind at rest and find peace with the past, as she embarks upon a new chapter in her life? I’m still not sure I would bet on it!
A complimentary download of this book for review purposes, was made available by Bookouture 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!