Death Among Rubies
The too-much-for-her-time Lady Frances Ffolkes is back, but I recommend you read Death Among Rubies before Death on the Sapphire because a) you can (it gives you everything you need to know about the characters) and b) I liked this one better.
That’s because it takes place in one of my very favorite mystery settings: the fancy house party. Frances, her supportive maid Miss Mallow, and her two very good friends Gwen and Tommie (who love each other, but not like sisters) have journeyed to Gwen’s family’s house to prepare some work for their suffragette group. At the same time, Gwen’s father Sir Calleford is hosting a Turkish diplomat, a well-off American and his brash daughter, a French couple, two neighboring widows, and Gwen’s handsome cousin.
Then the owner of the manor is stabbed. But Frances — knowing she’ll be kept out of the investigation because no one wants a woman assisting, no matter how unique or strong-willed or notorious she is — is more interested in finding out who’s been threatening Tommie, trying to drive her away from the more innocent Gwen. That’s the aspect that makes this mystery feel surprisingly current.
Author R.J. Koreto continues to insist on putting political machinations into his stories, with the murder motives including diplomatic schemes, but I like more his character portraits, most of whom are people I’d want to meet. The cast falls into well-known roles — the rich American trying to catch a titled husband, for example — but he fills them out with well-voiced dialogue and amusing personality moments. I particularly enjoy the bits of culture, as when we’re shown how the various servants interact out of the public areas.
I had a lovely time reading Death Among Rubies and I hope this isn’t the last we see of Mad Lady Frances. (The publisher provided a review copy.)