Mrs. Jeffries, Inspector Witherspoon's housekeeper, has been the behind the scenes force in his incredible cases solved record through 23 books and one anthology. Instead of becoming repetitive or sloppy, the writing in this series continue to hum along as smoothly as Witherspoon's Victorian household.
In this book, the mystery unfolds almost immediately. Stephen Whitfield hosts a Yuletide dinner, but he is dead before the dinner has hardly begun. While it initially looks like a heart attack, it turns out that he was poisoned with foxglove. All of this occurs in the first few pages of the book. From there the reader follows Mrs. Jeffries and other staff members of the Inspector's household as they try to uncover possible motives for Whitfield's murder. While Stephen Whitfield had many people who disliked him tremendously, few seemed to have a clear reason for wanting him dead.
Author Brightwell does an excellent job of bringing the Victorian era alive in her books. One of the more interesting sidebars in this book is a look at the unusual, (at least to modern day Americans) inheritance arrangements of property that were all too common at the time. Could this convoluted system of inheritance have cost Stephen Whitfield his life?
While this is a long running series, it is not necessarily a series that must be read in order. A person totally unfamiliar with Mrs. Jeffries could very easily pick up Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen and fall right into the Witherspoon household. However, first time readers beware! After reading this book, you may very well find yourselves seeking out the rest of the Mrs. Jeffries books.
REVIEWED BY CARYN ST. CLAIR
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