Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.
But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There’s a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation…
As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries and resentment, they uncover a web of intrigue that extends far beyond the village. With almost no one free from suspicion, they can be certain of only one fact: there is no such thing as a quiet life in the country. (Goodreas)
This book was quite a delight to read. Quaint and quirky, and more than anything, whimsical – I’ve now found a cosy mystery series that I reckon will be one of my favourites.
Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence Armstrong have just moved into a new house and expected some quiet life in the countryside. Their adventurous days were over, and they were so ready to put their feet up, enjoying a slow flow of time.
It is amid their morning walk then they find a body hanged from an oak tree; it also marks the end of their quiet days as well as the beginning of their sleuthing. Being warm-hearted and righteous, Lady Hardcastle now determines to investigate what’s presented as a suicide yet could be a murder case.
As if to say one murder is not handful enough, she and Flo presently find themselves embroiled in multiple investigations. Taking full advantage of the legacies and skills they acquired from their adventurous days, they now set out for some ‘serious’ snooping.
What I really liked about this book is the humorous, wicked vibe running throughout the book. Set in 1908, the entire book is told in a slightly archaic yet very charming style, impeccably delivering the sense of propriety. Compared to contemporary novels which tend to be rather emotionally busy, this book moves along at a steady, even soothing pace, which I found pretty comforting.
The mystery itself might not satisfy hard-core mystery fans with discernible eyes and perception due to the lack of tension or thrills, it might seem simple, or even predictable, but I quite enjoyed it nonetheless. A decent number of red herrings were scattered around, and the cooperative investigative style among Inspector Sunderland, Lady Hardcastle, and Flo which has no trace of any contrivance from the author’s part was not something I regularly encounter in a cosy. No disrespect or dissing, it’s all respect, respect, and respect -how comforting and cosy to read! The devoid of romance between an amateur sleuth and a detective served as the icing on the cake (I personally dislike this trope.), I dare say this is the first cosy mystery I purely enjoyed without feeling put off in any way.
Dialogues are all fun and witty, the ones between Lady Hardcastle and Flo are such a treat. I could tell they have been together through thick and thin and established quite a strong bond that uniquely transcends their respective situations. Lady Hardcastle mentioning the gaining momentum towards Labour Management also reflected the changing of times, and their relationship very well.
As there are three strands of mystery plots in this book and a fairly huge chunk of the book was spent on solving the two, I nearly forgot there was one more case left until the story reminded me. Overall, the story wrapped up in a neat, satisfactory way but I doubt if I would have at all minded or noticed had the book ended there; that shows what positive impression I had toward this book.
Given what Inspector Sunderland says in the story, so much for much-longed-for ‘quiet life’ for Lady Hardcastle and Flo.
I’m now curious to see what kind of mysteries and adventures are in store for them and am really keen to find it all out.