Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC.
A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER (A Countess of Harleigh Mystery #1) by Dianne Freeman is one of my new favorite historical mystery novels. It is a fun, captivating read from the very first page. The novel is Freeman’s first mystery novel, and it is due to be published on June 26, 2018 by Kensington Publishing Corp.
Frances Wynn, an American heiress living in England, is reentering society following her period of mourning for her late and not-so-lamented husband, Reggie. Frances – now a young, independent widow with a considerable fortune – leaves her late, philandering husband’s ancestral home and moves to London with her daughter. Her husband’s brother and his wife aren’t exactly sad to see Frances go, but they desperately miss her fortune that they were using to partially support themselves and their crumbing manor house. Not long after Frances strikes out on her own, she is accused of murdering her husband. She is also stuck with her aunt Hetty and her younger sister, Lily, who have come from New York to stay with Frances in London. Lily is marriage-obsessed, and she is determined to make the most of her London Season by finding a titled husband. Oh, and someone – quite possibly one of Lily’s suitors – might be trying to murder Frances. Determined to protect herself – and clear her name in her husband’s questionable death – Frances teams up with Inspector Delaney of the Metropolitan police and her neighbor, George Hazelton, to find Reggie’s killer, discover the thief who is stealing from London’s elite, and figure out if any of Lily’s suitors are worthy of marrying her.
A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER is a witty Victorian mystery, and I was captivated from the first page. Frances Wynn is one of my new favorite historical, amateur sleuths. She is independent, spunky, funny, and has a mind of her own. The reader will feel an immediate connection with Frances, and they will quickly find themselves cheering for her, sympathizing with her, and wanting to find a time machine so they can go back in time to meet her. The other characters are equally as interesting and likable – especially Frances’ sister and aunt. Aunt Hetty is a formidable companion for Frances. Freeman also wonderfully recreates London of the late 1800s. Not only does she recreate the time period and place, she also brilliantly brings to life the lifestyles and societal norms of the Victorian Era.
The mystery aspect of A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER is well crafted and kept me guessing up until the end. There are multiple mysteries going on throughout the novel, meaning that there are multiple criminals. Frances and crew are investigating all of the mysteries, and they have to determine which – if any – of the crimes are tied together. There are plenty of suspects, clues, and red herrings. The suspense is balanced out with humor. And Freeman balances out the mystery plotlines with subplot of Lily’s Season and Frances’ new life as an independent woman.
A LADY’S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER is a fantastic novel and the first in what I know will be an outstanding series. I can’t wait to read the second book in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series!