Title: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman
Author: Tessa Arlen
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Genre: Historical Mystery
From the publisher—
Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it’s more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.
Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.
The Edwardian era has long been a favorite of mine as it is with many historical enthusiasts and even more people have been drawn to it by the popularity of Downton Abbey and the earlier Upstairs, Downstairs. Despite the glaring class differences in existence at the time, I think much of its appeal comes from the perception that it was such a peaceful, prosperous time just before the darkness to come and it seems to offer a sense of innocence that would never return. Perhaps that innocence is what really draws us to it.
Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman evokes that ambience with its beautifully-drawn setting and characterizations, down to the details of dress and gardens but its really the characters who make this not only a terrific period piece but also a cracking good mystery. The Countess, Clementine, and Mrs. Jackson, her housekeeper, could not be more different in station and personality and, yet, they have one thing in common, the desire to see justice done and to preserve the honor of the family. I found each character to be richly drawn but it’s these two women who really carry the story even while they find a way to make their collaboration work despite the gulf between their positions in life and Mrs. Jackson’s reluctance to cross those social barriers.
As for the mystery, the disreputable Teddy’s death leads to a plethora of secrets and proving Harry’s innocence turns out to be far more complex than Lady Montford and Mrs. Jackson could possibly have foreseen although they were sure from the beginning that the police were on the wrong track. Almost as unsettling is the disappearance of two young women and, when the truth comes out, life at Iyntwood will be a little tarnished.
All in all, I truly enjoyed this country house mystery and am already looking forward to A Party for Winston, due out next year. Ms. Arlen is an author I want to see more from.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.
About the Author
TESSA ARLEN, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN is Tessa’s first novel. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Follow the tour here.