Mitford Murders
by Fellowes, Jessica

In 1920, Louisa Cannon takes a position with the Mitford family at their manor house in the Oxfordshire countryside, but when a nurse is killed on a train, Louisa and the youngest Mitford daughter, Nancy, become entangled in the murderer's crimes.

JESSICA FELLOWES is an author, journalist, and public speaker, best known for her official companion books to the Downton Abbey T.V. series, various of which have topped the New York Times bestseller list. Former deputy director of Country Life, and columnist for the Mail on Sunday, she has written for publications including the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, The Sunday Times, and The Lady. Jessica has spoken at events across the UK and US, and has made numerous appearances on radio and television. She lives in Oxfordshire with her family.

The "upstairs, downstairs" aspects of England after WWI come to life in this mystery by Fellowes, a niece of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. The main have-not character here is Louisa Cannon, the cold, hungry niece of a horrible man who tries to force her into prostitution. Luckily, she finds a job "in service" to Lord Redesdale and his real-life family, the Mitfords. What's not so fortunate is that on her journey to Asthall Manor she witnesses a possible murderer making a getaway. Louisa and the flighty, husband-hunting eldest daughter of the house, Nancy Mitford, work together to solve the crime, helped by two young men, one who was left behind when war began and the other who can't forget what he endured at the front. This pitch-perfect mystery, based on a real crime, features the genteel Edwardian social dystopia beloved by fans of Downton. Those drawn to the WWI angle could also try Siegfried Sassoon's classic Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930). Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Fellowes transitions from providing the history behind the fiction (Downton Abbey—A Celebration: The Official Companion to all Six Seasons, 2015) to adding some fiction to history in her first mystery based on the life of the legendary literary Mitford sisters.Florence Nightingale Shore, a dedicated war nurse in the model of her godmother and namesake, was attacked on a Brighton line train on Jan. 19, 1920, and died a few days later. This much is historical fact, and it's equally true that her killer was never found. But what if her murder had drawn the attention of Guy Sullivan, a dogged young member of the railway police determined to make a name for himself, and 16-year-old Nancy Mitford, the eldest of Lord and Lady Redesdale's seven children, gifted with an adolescent's grisly imagination and eagerness to break out of the nursery? The two are linked by Louisa Cannon, the daughter of a recently widowed washerwoman. Louisa is desperate to escape the poverty of London, where her predatory uncle is trying to steal her last shreds of respectability. A chance encounter with an old friend who married well leads Louisa to a recommendation for a job as the new nursery maid for the Mitford brood—a job she can reach only by fleeing her uncle's grasp on a desperate train journey. Along the way, Guy Sullivan saves her and is instantly smitten. Nancy's keen interest in the case, Louisa's immense gratitude to the family, and Guy's determination to do real police work (and see Louisa again) all culminate in a grand confrontation with the killer at Nancy's 18th-birthday ball. The solution to the puzzle feels a bit implausible, but the heroine is appealingly plucky, and the reader sinks into the rich period detail as pleasantly as into an overstuffed sofa. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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