The Mitford Murders
It comes as no surprise to most people who have met me (or heck, even those of you who have read my reviews) that I love Downton Abbey. So when I found out that Julian Fellowes, the creator of my beloved costume drama, has a creative niece who wrote a novel set in the same time period, my little anglophile heart went wild!
Jessica Fellowes’ (The Wit and Wisdom of Downton Abbey) The Mitford Murders did not disappoint. It isn’t the wild ride that many murder-mysteries tend to be, much to my surprise. Instead it’s more sedate. It’s a slow-burn-yet-gripping sort of mystery that really fits into… well, the style of Downton Abbey. It’s perfectly suited to a cup of tea and a rainy day.
The story centers around Louisa Cannon, a young woman who narrowly avoids being forced into prostitution by her uncle. In the hopes of hiding away and creating a better life for herself, she becomes a nanny to the soon-to-be infamous Mitford children of Asthall Manor. Louisa finds herself helping solve the mysterious murder of Nurse Florence Nightingale Shore. And let me say, there were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing.
One thing I did find upsetting, without giving too much away, was the license Fellowes took with the lives of real people. Nurse Shore really was murdered, and her murder was never solved. But the author’s method of solving it cast a shadow over innocent contemporaries, and it seems unfair to honor one woman’s life only to disparage others who are now gone. That being said, it did not impair my enjoyment of the book.
It was great fun to peek into the lives of the iconic and controversial Mitford family through the eyes of Louisa, who felt very real as the everywoman figure. In a time when class lines were blurring, her determination to succeed in spite of all the odds really had me rooting for her. Jessica Fellowes proves that she has her own flair for the dramatic, and an excellent handle on character development and pacing as the story unfolds.
The Mitford Murders is a well-rounded and carefully developed tale that drew me in and made me feel like one of the family. I enjoyed being kept on my toes and holding my breath, and when I turned the last page I had that wonderfully scrumptious, satisfying feeling of finishing a good book.
So put the kettle on, pour yourself a cuppa, and go solve a mystery!