Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Hardcover & Ebook; 320 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery
Filled with deceptions both real and imagined, Death Sits Down to Dinner is a delightful Edwardian mystery set in London.
Lady Montfort is thrilled to receive an invitation to a dinner party hosted by her close friend Hermione Kingsley, the patroness of England’s largest charity. Hermione has pulled together a select gathering to celebrate Winston Churchill’s 39th birthday. Some of the oldest families in the country have gathered to toast the dangerously ambitious and utterly charming First Lord of the Admiralty. But when the dinner ends, one of the gentlemen remains seated at the table, head down among the walnut shells littering the cloth and a knife between his ribs.
Summoned from Iyntwood, Mrs. Jackson helps her mistress trace the steps of suspects both upstairs and downstairs as Hermione’s household prepares to host a highly anticipated charity event. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson unravel the web of secrecy surrounding the bright whirlwind of London society, investigating the rich, well-connected and seeming do-gooders in a race against time to stop the murderer from striking again.
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND | KOBO
“Despite Clementine’s luxurious lifestyle, she’s got a head on her shoulders . . .and is as cagey as she is charming. A neatly crafted whodunit dripping with diamonds, titles and scandal . . .” -Kirkus Reviews
“The close, mutually respectful partnership between Clementine and Edith will remind Dorothy Sayers’s fans of the relationship between Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter, his manservant. Arlen does a good job of depicting a period when class distinctions have become blurred by new money and more-relaxed manners. The plot, which includes a slew of red herrings, builds to a startling denouement.” -Publisher’s Weekly
“VERDICT Real-life Edwardian personalities abound in this period historical, and the upstairs/downstairs focus delivers a clash of temperaments. This title is bound to appeal to fans of historicals set in this period and of such authors as Rhys Bowen and Ashley Weaver.” -Library Journal
“A wet and miserable late-autumn day had turned into a bitterly cold winter night as the sun sank unseen below a horizon obscured by a bank of thick gray clouds.”
As soon as I read the opening line of Tessa Arlen’s Death Sits Down to Dinner, I wrapped myself up in this delightfully British & dignified-cozy mystery. Bringing to mind Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Arlen has crafted a story that seamlessly blends the historic and the fictional. Sir Winston Churchill treads across the page – the murder occurs at his private birthday party, after all – and a marvelous note tacked on to the end of the book satisfies the historic-curious with insight into other real-life characters who make cameo appearances.
Some of the character names quite simply deserve to be said aloud for posterity’s sake. Marigold Meriwether. Trevor Tricklebank. Miss Biggleswade. And Gilbert Vernon Wildman-Lushington. Who, by the way, was an actual person – appointed as Churchill’s personal flying instructor in 1913. You can visit Tessa Arlen’s Redoubtable Edwardian blog to learn more.
Bottom Line: The upstairs/downstairs of Downton Abbey meets the Edwardian amateur sleuth in Tessa Arlen’s Death Sits Down to Dinner. Sophisticated and dignified Lady Montcort once again recruits her pragmatic housekeeper Mrs. Jackson to help her solve the gruesome murder of a friend’s dinner guest. Historical tidbits, along with insights into the expected etiquette belowstairs, added to the elements that make this a wonderfully entertaining read.
(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
My Rating: 4 stars/ Enjoyed it!
Content Disclaimer: While I mainly review Christian fiction on my blog, this particular title is written for the general market. However, I have no hesitations at all in recommending it to both sets of readers.
About the Author
TESSA ARLEN, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN is Tessa’s first novel. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.
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