December 1918: As a difficult year draws to a close, there is much to celebrate for nineteen-year-old Phoebe Renshaw and her three siblings at their beloved family estate of Foxwood Hall. The dreadful war is finally over; eldest daughter Julia’s engagement to their houseguest, the Marquis of Allerton, appears imminent; and all have gathered to enjoy peace on earth, good will toward men.
But the peace of Foxwood Hall is shattered on the morning of Boxing Day, when the Marquis goes missing. Not entirely missing, however, as macabre evidence of foul play turns up in gift boxes given to lady’s maid Eva Huntford and a handful of others. Having overheard her sister and the Marquis in a heated exchange the night before, Lady Phoebe takes a personal interest in solving the mystery.
As the local constable suspects a footman at Foxwood Hall, Phoebe and Eva follow the clues to a different conclusion. But both young women will need to think outside the box to wrap up this case—before a cornered killer lashes out with ill will toward them…
I love the world Alyssa Maxwell creates for us in Murder Most Malicious.
How does the genteel world of manners and appearances deal with someone who is utterly despicable? The Marquis of Allerton has let his ego get in the way of following orders during WWI, causing the death and maiming of many of the soldiers under his command. That apparently is covered up because the only ones who seem to know are the few remaining men with whom he served. He also abuses women - physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually, this last apparently reserved for those women 'below stairs'. And he swindles people left and right, regardless of class, as if what's his is his and what's anyone else's is his.
No wonder he found up dead. The manner of this is somewhat unique as well. People don't stumble across his body...but someone has left Allerton's amputated fingers in the servants' Christmas boxes, along with an item of value that had belonged to the Marquis. So you see, various body parts show up, but nothing that would conclusively lead people to believe that he was dead.
Almost as irritating as Allerton was the police Inspector Perkins. How he got promoted from Constable is beyond me. A little too eager to appear to solve the case quickly rather than do a thorough investigation. A little too eager to pin the blame on a servant that anyone 'above stairs'. And not one to brook ideas that differ from his own. That whole social class thing just ticks me off royally (!), which again leads me to believe that I would not survive very long during that time period and in that location. Certainly not 'below stairs' anyway...I'd be sacked within a week or less. Ah, but that's another post worth (at least) for another day.
It is a testament to Ms. Maxwell's descriptive skill that Murder Most Malicious evoked such strong emotions in me. Thank goodness that this is only the beginning for Phoebe and Eva. I can't wait to see how they navigate solving crimes with what was considered 'proper behavior' for women of their respective 'stations'.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Alyssa Maxwell has worked in publishing as an assistant editor and a ghost writer, but knew from an early age that being a novelist was what she wanted most. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She lives in South Florida in the current year, but confesses to spending most of her time in the Victorian, Edwardian, and post WWI eras. In addition to fantasizing about wearing Worth gowns while strolling manor house gardens, she loves to watch BBC and other period productions and sip tea in the afternoons.
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(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours in exchange for my objective review.)
This books helps me complete the following 2016 reading challenges:
52 Books in 52 Weeks
Eclectic Reader Challenge
New Authors Challenge