Book Review: Death of an Unsung Hero by Tessa Arlen—and a Giveaway!

Death of an Unsung Hero
A Lady Montfort Mystery #4
Tessa Arlen
Minotaur Books, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-250-10144-0
Hardcover

From the publisher—

In 1916, the world is at war and the energetic Lady Montfort has persuaded her husband to offer his family’s dower house to the War Office as an auxiliary hospital for officers recovering from shell-shock with their redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson contributing to the war effort as the hospital’s quartermaster.

Despite the hospital’s success, the farming community of Haversham, led by the Montfort’s neighbor Sir Winchell Meacham, does not approve of a country-house hospital for men they consider to be cowards. When Captain Sir Evelyn Bray, one of the patients, is found lying face down in the vegetable garden with his head bashed in, both Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson have every reason to fear that the War Office will close their hospital. Once again the two women unite their diverse talents to discover who would have reason to murder a war hero suffering from amnesia.

Time has moved on since our last encounter with Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson and England is growing weary of World War I, only halfway through the horror, although their patriotism is still high and everyone wants to do his—or her—part. When a military hospital is opened in Haversham Hall, a property owned by the Earl of Montfort, some neighbors are not welcoming. This is no ordinary hospital treating the visible wounds one expects to see but, rather, a shelter for soldiers suffering a badly misunderstood emotional affliction. Shellshock is a condition that’s newly-recognized by the medical community but many civilians see it as a mere excuse for cowardice in the face of the enemy. Still, murder seems to be an unnecessarily strong reaction.

Lady Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, are the perfect upstairs-downstairs team and their individual stations and personalities complement each other when they investigate. Unlike some similar situations, these women are equally intelligent and determined to seek truth and justice plus they truly like each other and work together like a well-oiled machine. Now, they turn their attention to the question of why someone would want to murder Captain Bray just when he was beginning to recover from his amnesia and who that someone might be.

Tessa Arlen has cemented her place among the best historical mystery authors and, in my opinion, each book is a wonderful evocation of period and setting. It was nice to learn more about Lady Montfort’s family and the earl has become another of my favorite members of the cast. This entry has the added drama of war and it’s clear that the author understands and has a passion for the times and her wonderful characters. I’ll be adding Death of an Unsung Hero to my list of best reads in 2018.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2018.

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Purchase Links:

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“The book is a delightful romp through a world of vividly
eccentric characters in a beautifully described setting. It was
pure pleasure to read, and it packed a punch.”
– Historical Novel Society

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About the Author

TESSA ARLEN is the author of Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, Death Sits Down to Dinner and A Death by Any Other Name. She is the daughter of a British diplomat and had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi, and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the US in 1980 and worked as an HR recruiter for the LA Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Death of an Unsung Hero,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Monday
evening, March 19th, and the book
will be sent after the tour ends.
Open to residents of the US.

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“The way Arlen integrates the traumas of WWI into a
golden age whodunit plot will please Charles Todd fans.”
– Publishers Weekly

Book Review: A Death by Any Other Name by Tessa Arlen

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Book Review: The White Dress by Denise Buckley

The White DressThe White Dress
Denise Buckley
Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., November 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62857-506-4
Trade Paperback

The author of this enthralling historical novel is English. The novel begins in 1886, but its style is slightly off and definitely modern. “Nellie listened to see who had arrived and recognized Master Edward’s cousin Abigail. Nellie listened intently to the conversation when she heard Master Edward’s voice.” Direct, straightforward, many many short declarative sentences.

The novel deals with highly emotional sometimes turbulent incidents for which the almost neutral tone seems to work quite well. The plot is fairly simple but laded with more than a few twists and surprises. A young prostitute grabs an opportunity and steals an infant girl from a briefly untended carriage on the street of Ulverston, Lancashire, England. The baby grows up, has many adventures and the details of her parentage are ultimately resolved. The novel is a coming-of-age love story that looks with a critical but loving eye at the conditions of the lower classes in early Twentieth Century England and at the relationships of the classes during that period.

One is instantly drawn to Nellie and many of the other characters amid a desire to see them all succeed, something not possible, of course. Nellie’s personality develops in foreseeable steps as she dodges calamities and strides resolutely into her future. It is the ways in which she deals with both adversity and success that makes it necessary for us to continue reading to the elusive end.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2016.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Death Sits Down to Dinner by Tessa Arlen—and a Giveaway!

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Title: Death Sits Down to Dinner
Series: A Lady Montfort Mystery #2

Author: Tessa Arlen
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Death Sits Down to DinnerDeath Sits Down to Dinner
A Lady Montfort Mystery #2
Tessa Arlen
Minotaur Books, March 2016
ISBN 978-1-250-05250-6
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Filled with deceptions both real and imagined, Death Sits Down to Dinner is a delightful Edwardian mystery set in London.

Lady Montfort is thrilled to receive an invitation to a dinner party hosted by her close friend Hermione Kingsley, the patroness of England’s largest charity. Hermione has pulled together a select gathering to celebrate Winston Churchill’s 39th birthday. Some of the oldest families in the country have gathered to toast the dangerously ambitious and utterly charming First Lord of the Admiralty. But when the dinner ends, one of the gentlemen remains seated at the table, head down among the walnut shells littering the cloth and a knife between his ribs.

Summoned from Iyntwood, Mrs. Jackson helps her mistress trace the steps of suspects both upstairs and downstairs as Hermione’s household prepares to host a highly anticipated charity event. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson unravel the web of secrecy surrounding the bright whirlwind of London society, investigating the rich, well-connected and seeming do-gooders in a race against time to stop the murderer from striking again.

It would be difficult to find an historical period that’s more interesting than the Edwardian Era, particularly in England. This is a time when injustice could be found everywhere and, yet, progressive moves were being made in areas like women’s suffrage, child labor and racist attitudes and it’s the last period of a certain gentility before the first global war, just a few years away. Aeroplanes have brought an excitement not seen since the early days of the automobile and class differences are beginning to fade ever so slightly.

Lady Montfort is a progressive lady herself with an eye for ferreting out secrets when crime is afoot but she understands her limitations due to society’s class restrictions and enlists the assistance of her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, in keeping an ear to the ground belowstairs. These two ladies proved themselves in a previous situation and, if anything, have become even more adept at getting to the truth.

Clementine and Edith have become favorites of mine in the sleuthing world, most especially because of their high regard for each other. Each has particular abilities to offer and a good deal of intelligence and they find ways to work together within the confines of their society. Tessa Arlen has a fine hand with her characterizations and with settings that are truly vivid in their evocation of 1913 England. Secondary players are every bit as engaging and I particularly appreciate the author’s inclusion of a cast of characters.

As for the mystery itself, red herrings are in plentiful supply and, although Ms. Arlen certainly plays fair, the final denouement is as unpredictable as a mystery fan could wish. This second entry in the series is another winner and I’m already craving the third.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2016.

About the Author

Tessa ArlenTESSA 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.

For more information please visit Tessa Arlen’s website. Read Tessa Arlen’s blog at Redoubtable Edwardians. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Subscribe to Tessa Arlen’s Newsletter.

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To enter the drawing for a print
copy of Death Sits Down to Dinner,
leave a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Sunday
evening, April 3rd, and the book
will be sent after the tour ends.
Open to residents of the US.

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Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Book Review: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman

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Title: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman
Author: Tessa Arlen
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: January 6, 2015
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Death of a Dishonorable GentlemanDeath of a Dishonorable Gentleman
Tessa Arlen
Minotaur Books, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-250-05249-0
Hardcover

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 ArlenTESSA 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.

For more information please visit Tessa Arlen’s website. Read Tessa Arlen’s blog at Redoubtable Edwardians. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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Follow the tour here.

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Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours