A mansion, a title and marriage to a wealthy Lord – Lady Eveline Cartwright has it all. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to prevent her being bludgeoned to death one night in the study of Merisham Lodge, the family’s country estate in Derbyshire.
Suspicion quickly falls on her ne’er-do-well son, Peter, but not everyone in the household is convinced of his guilt. Head kitchen maid Joan Hart and lady’s maid, Verity Hunter, know that when it comes to a crime, all is not always as it seems.
With suspicions and motives thick on the ground, Joan and Verity must use all the wit and courage they possess to expose a deadly murderer who will stop at nothing to achieve their aim…
Murder at Merisham Lodge is the first in a new series of historical mysteries, Miss Hart and Miss Hunter Investigate, set in the 1930s. The author, Celina Grace, is the creator of the bestselling The Kate Redman Mysteries and The Asharton Manor Mysteries, as well as several standalone thrillers.
A delightful cosy mystery written in first person from the point of view of Joan Hart, which gave a charming and informative insight into the life of a kitchen maid in a large house in 1930. When the lady of the house is murdered and her son is arrested, Joan and her best friend Verity think something is wrong. They start to ask questions and watch the activities of those in the house, hampered by the fact their time isn’t their own and have to work around the demands of their employers and their superiors in the servants hall.
Despite these restrictions, and Joan’s natural insecurity where dealing with Inspector Marks, the policeman in charge of the case, the two women set about proving who really did bash lady Eveline’s head in. Their motive being natural curiosity and a sense of justice rather than self-interest, other than keeping their jobs if the family are all killed or jailed.
How the upstairs family regard the downstairs staff is well illustrated, as well as just how demanding working as a servant must have been after WWI at a time when so many country houses had to reduce their staff numbers for the sake of economy; a trend that was to worsen with the coming of WWII. There is a scene where Joan works all day to produce a complicated meal which the family don’t even eat - I could feel her frustration at her wasted labour.
I really liked Joan, who had more nous than she gave herself credit for, and Verity was the delightful, more daring one of the two who wasn’t verse to helping herself to the brandy when the need arose.
I look forward to reading more of Joan and Verity’s adventures.