Mrs. Jeffries and the Silent Knight: A Victorian Mystery
Berkley, 2005 (2005)
Reviewed by Theresa Ichino
mily Brightwell's latest offering in her charming series is another pleasant read that transports us to Victorian London and the loyal household of Inspector Gerald Witherspoon. When Sir George Braxton is found with a fatal head wound, face down in a frozen fountain, the Home Secretary himself puts on pressure, demanding a quick solution to the case - before Christmas, no less! Enter Inspector Witherspoon, whose stellar career owes much to the unobtrusive aid of his loyal household staff. An unassuming and gentle man, Witherspoon is often dismayed by the harsh demands of his investigations into homicide. However, he has a strong sense of duty as well as a belief that the dead, too, deserve justice.
is staff, headed by the competent and intelligent Hepzibah Jeffries, is torn between hoping for the challenge of another mystery to solve and the guilty realization that the puzzle that they enjoy implied death for the unlucky victim. They take care to ensure that their dear Inspector has no suspicion of their activities on his behalf. In this case, they are handicapped by the fact that the murder takes place on an estate outside of London, making it difficult for the servants to make discreet inquiries. The London-wise staff do not easily blend in. The challenge is made even more difficult by their increasing suspicion that the murderer is a member of Sir George's household, none of whom seem to have any affection for the dead man, thus providing several excellent suspects. The only exception is his cat, whose personality is quite as cantankerous as that of any human member of the Braxton clan.
s always, a visit to Brightwell's world delivers a satisfying mystery as well as a glimpse into the lives of her engaging characters. Smythe and Betsy's romance is progressing beautifully. Young Wiggins is developing confidence. Mrs. Goodge's outlook has changed greatly from rigid adherence to status-bound protocol. Hatchet, butler to the eccentric and wealthy Luty Crookshank, is as stately as ever - a dignity belied by his enthusiastic snooping. Their neighbour (the object of Witherspoon's shy admiration), Lady Cannonberry, has recently become an ally in surreptitious sleuthing. Like wealthy Luty, she pays little attention to maintaining one's
place. By contrasting the fortunate situation of the Inspector's people with the plight of ordinary folk, Brightwell brings the past to life.
Mrs. Jeffries and the Silent Knight
is a worthy addition to her Victorian mysteries - and just in time for Christmas.
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