Deadly Inheritance is to be the first in a crime series featuring the resolute American, Ursula Grandison. Ursula comes to England in 1903 as a paid companion to the teenaged Belle Seldon, who is visiting her sister, Helen, now Countess of Mountstanton. Ursula has also been commissioned by the Seldon girls’ multi-millionaire father to find out what might have happened to Helen’s dowry money, but Helen has an old grudge against Ursula, the earl is cold and unsympathetic, and the formidable dowager countess rules over servants and family alike.
Then, when out walking, Ursula discovers a dead body — identified as Polly the nursemaid, whom everyone believed had run away. She finds it hard to believe the inquest’s verdict of suicide, and neither does the earl’s brother, Colonel Charles Stanhope. He and Ursula begin their own investigations, but the naïve and reckless Belle rushes blithely towards scandal, further deaths ensue, and it soon becomes clear that there is something very wrong at Mountstanton House.
This is an enjoyable classic country house mystery, with plenty of dizzying plot twists, although some of the characters, particularly the servants and villagers, verge on the stereotype. I found the start rather slow and exposition-heavy and, editorially, a couple of characters’ names changed in the course of the narrative. Some of the many shifts in viewpoint, whilst giving alternative perspectives and filling in background information, did not go particularly smoothly, and there were some plot elements that I felt were left too unresolved.
However, Ursula is a great character whom I would gladly seek out again. Well-educated and cultured, she has suffered her own tragedies with bravery and stoicism. She is a woman who determines to see justice done, in spite of the risks involved.