Miss Morton and the English House Party Murder: A Riveting Victorian Mystery (A Miss Morton Mystery)
“Lloyd’s story has myriad twists and turns—enough to keep the reader entranced.”
Miss Morton and the English House Party Murder is author Catherine Lloyd’s first entry in her newest murder series, A Miss Morton Mystery.
Caroline Morton was once a sweetheart in the English Debut season. That is, until her father fell out of favor with English society and committed suicide. He left his daughters, Caroline and Susan, without a penny and dependent upon relatives. The sisters were taken in by Lord and Lady Greenwood.
Caroline, the older of the sisters, gets herself out of the house of her Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Nicholas Greenwood and into her own independence when she takes a job as companion to Mrs. Frogerton, a wealthy, and herself independent, businesswoman. Mrs. Frogerton’s daughter, Dorothy, is working her way through the social graces of the English season, and Caroline is assisting her through the maze of parties and balls.
When Caroline receives an invitation to return to her relatives’ mansion, Greenwood Hall, to celebrate her cousin Mabel’s birthday, she agrees to accept only if Mrs. Frogerton and Dorothy are welcomed as well.
Aunt Eleanor is not thrilled at the idea of a businesswoman attending a social event, but she agrees.
It quickly becomes apparent that all is not right at Greenwood Mansion. Although Caroline is thrilled to see her sister, Susan, and their cousin Mabel, the rest of the family and guests are not welcoming.
Mabel has determined that her friends, who are not high on the social list, must be invited to her party and Aunt Eleanor unhappily agrees. Mabel’s friends are of the common variety and frowned upon by other guests.
Not long after their arrival, the butler Mr. Woodford unexpectedly dies. Dr. Harris is called upon to assist and he determines that although Mr. Woodford was elderly, his death was not natural. Caroline and Mrs. Frogerton begin asking questions and it is not long before the family secrets begin to rise from the ashes.
The circumstances of Mr. Woodford’s death are swept under the carpet in order to not ruin Mabel’s party but within another day, Great Aunt Ines succumbs to death—also not natural. As Caroline looks further into both deaths, it becomes clear that Great Aunt Ines will not be missed with her recent departure. “‘I’m glad the old bitch died.’ Dan murmured. ‘She got what was coming to her and so will the rest of them.’”
It should be noted that Lloyd has designed strong characters, even those who play a minor role in the story. She folds each character’s personality into the role they play, helping to move the story along at a snappy pace.
In her role as lady of the house, Aunt Eleanor has spent years developing her reputation as charitable socially highbrow. She takes children from poor families into her home and educates them so they can grow into responsible and reliable young men and women.
To add some tension to the story, Lloyd has included Lord Francis Chatham into the picture. Francis is Caroline’s ex-fiancé, and their meeting is anything but cordial.
As Caroline and Mrs. Frogerton take on the investigation of two deaths, the history of Greenwood Hall continues to rise to their attention, and it seems to center on the children who come and go through Aunt Eleanor’s generosity.
Three of Mabel’s friends, Joshua, Dan, and Harry, each have a history of being raised at the Hall, and none of them has a good word to share.
Lloyd is strong in her development of the various characters at Greenwood Hall, giving each of them a motive for murdering Mr. Woodford and Aunt Ines. She provides valuable clues to incriminate the suspects, but withholds the evidence needed to blame any of them.
As the story proceeds, Caroline and Mrs. Frogerton discuss motives and continue to seek the elusive evidence. Throughout the story, Lloyd increases the number of possible suspects as a maze of questions without answers. Just as the reader thinks they have nailed the perpetrator of the crime, a new clue surfaces, throwing attention on a different character.
Lloyd’s story has myriad twists and turns—enough to keep the reader entranced—all the while thinking they have solved the crime and discovering that they have not.
Lloyd’s imagination takes us on a roller coaster ride through the murders, romances, illicit affairs, and secrets of Regency England, enough so it is hard to put the book down.