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The Mitford Murders
Jessica Fellowes

Sphere (Little, Brown)
14 September 2017/ ISBN 9780751567151

Reviewed by  Rachel A Hyde

Christmas 1919 and young Louisa Cannon longs to escape from her impoverished life and, in particular, her uncle. A chance meeting with an old friend introduces her to Nancy Mitford and gives her an idea. When events turn dangerous for her, Louisa is on the run and finally ends up in her desired job as nursery maid to the Mitfords. But on the same day she was travelling down by train for her interview another passenger was murdered; nurse Florence Nightingale Shore. It will be up to Louisa and wannabe detective Guy to discover whodunit.

Ms Fellowes has written several companion books to the popular TV series Downton Abbey so if you were a fan then you ought to enjoy this book. Expect another immersion into 1920s country (and town house) life above and below stairs as England recovers after the war, Louisa settles down in her new role and railway policeman Guy detects. If you are missing your Sunday night fix of period drama and want to discover what life was like at Asthall Manor when the Mitfords were children then I can recommend this. Bold, confident Nancy is well drawn and Louisa is an excellent foil to her, with her own backstory, which runs through the book. If on the other hand you are hoping for a golden age style detective story a la Agatha Christie, which focuses mostly on the detective side of things, you will be disappointed. There is certainly sleuthing going on but more as a side dish to the main course of the Mitfords and attendant period detail. The murder is based on a real crime and there is a good evocation of how the Great War changed everything and how people coped with the aftermath. This part of the book was the most interesting for me, but at times the various plot strands vied with each other and I would have preferred more of an emphasis on detection for a novel billed as a mystery. This is the first book in a planned series with each book focusing on a different sister, so it will be interesting to see where the author goes with it.

Reviewed 2017