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Gifted with murder
December 23, 2015
Murder Most Malicious
By Alyssa Maxwell
Mystery & Thrillers
Pub Date: December 29, 2015
In post–World War I England, Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady's maid, Eva Huntford, step outside of their social roles and put their lives at risk to apprehend a vicious killer. . .
December 1918: As a difficult year draws to a close, there is much to celebrate for nineteen-year-old Phoebe Renshaw and her three siblings at their beloved family estate of Foxwood Hall. The dreadful war is finally over; eldest daughter Julia's engagement to their houseguest, the Marquis of GiAllerton, appears imminent; and all have gathered to enjoy peace on earth, good will toward men.
But the peace of Foxwood Hall is shattered on the morning of Boxing Day, when the Marquis goes missing. Not entirely missing, however, as macabre evidence of foul play turns up in gift boxes given to lady's maid Eva Huntford and a handful of others. Having overheard her sister and the Marquis in a heated exchange the night before, Lady Phoebe takes a personal interest in solving the mystery.
As the local constable suspects a footman at Foxwood Hall, Phoebe and Eva follow the clues to a different conclusion. But both young women will need to think outside the box to wrap up this case--before a cornered killer lashes out with ill will toward them. . .
Murder Most Malicious is an astounding mystery perfect for fans of period mysteries and dramas like Downtown Abbey. Alyssa Maxwell's writing is impressive, as is her ability to capture the feel of postwar life in England.
During WWI, women had for the first time opportunities in areas previously closed to them. After the war, noble women in particular were expected to go back to living as before, focusing on finding a good husband. But a taste for freedom of thought and action is difficult to forget, as are the numerous losses.
Christmas at Foxwood Hall is a time for celebration. The war is over and Lady Julia Renshaw is expected to announce her engagement to the Marquis of Allerton. When the Marquis goes missing on Boxing Day no one knows what to think. Puzzlement turns to fear when parts of the Marquis are discovered in the boxes given to the staff. With such clear evidence of foul play, the police are called in to investigate. The inspector immediately looks to the staff for the killer, but Lady Phoebe doesn't accept his hasty judgement.
Her sister Julia quarreled with the Marquis the night before, and only Phoebe's intervention prevented him from harming Julia. Phoebe suspects that many had reasons to eliminate the Marquis and that there must have been a reason why certain people received such macabre offerings. As the inspector focuses on an innocent man, Phoebe and Eva start their own investigation, despite the danger.
In a time when upstairs did not freely associate with downstairs, friendships between nobles and servants were highly unusual. The war shook the strict social divisions, but did not eliminate them. The friendship and mutual respect that exists between Lady Phoebe and Eva Huntford is not the norm. Eva is particularly conscious of what duty requires of her. It isn't easy for her to break with social expectations and help Lady Phoebe investigate. At the same time, neither woman looks for a man's guidance or protection.
Throughout the novel, my mind flitted from suspect to suspect. I was held captive by the mystery, wondering when and where they would find the body of the Marquis and who murdered him. I was just as astounded as Eva and Phoebe were when the final pieces fell into place.
Well written and deftly plotted, Murder Most Malicious is a period cozy certain to delight fans of the genre. Alyssa Maxwell is a skilled storyteller, and Lady Phoebe and Eva are well matched as amateur investigators. I look forward to reading more novels by Alyssa Maxwell featuring Phoebe and Eva.
Murder Most Malicious is available for preorder and will be released December 29, 2015.
I received a copy of Murder Most Malicious from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.