by Dianne Freeman
Series: Countess of Harleigh Mystery #3
Publication Date: July 24, 2020
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.
But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.
As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll. . . .
Historical mysteries seem to be all the rage at the moment, and fortunately, publishers have yet to monetise and ruin the trend to such a degree that you can’t find a selection of well written series to enjoy. While the quality of cozy mysteries has been abysmal the last several years, Historical Mysteries have filled in the gap nicely for me.
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder is the 3rd in a series I discovered at my first (and so far only) Bouchercon convention. It’s a good series, and this book is a strong 3rd book, moving the characters’ arcs along quickly, while presenting an interesting stand-alone plot, with clues easily missed and writing that skilfully misdirected the reader down several false avenues. As the story moved along, some of the misdirection became obvious, but some of it didn’t, rendering a delightful mystery well done.
My only groan over the book was the introduction of Countess Harleigh’s mother who was caricatured for most of her page time, only to do the whole mama-lion thing and achieving what to me was an insincere redemption in the final pages. Fortunately she’s not around much in this book and it wasn’t enough to really weight the book down.