A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

Written by Dianne Freeman
Review by Ellen Keith

It’s almost the turn of the century in London. Frances Wynn, the Countess of Harleigh, has endured the mandated year of mourning for her late, unlamented husband. Theirs was not a love match. The American Frances got a title, and her penniless husband got her money. Now Frances is relocating herself and her young daughter, Rose, from her husband’s family’s money pit estate in the country to a house in Belgravia. Her husband’s brother and his wife are loath to lose her money, and indeed, her brother-in-law Graham, makes a claim on it in court, effectively freezing her assets. Fortunately, Frances’s younger sister, Lily, is arriving with their aunt to make her debut and she brings a sizeable amount for a dress allowance.

An anonymous letter has alerted the police that her husband’s death should be treated as suspicious. Frances does have something to hide about his death. She, her husband’s mistress, and her best friend’s brother moved her late husband back to his own room after he died of a heart attack in flagrante in his mistress’s bed. Now an inspector is breathing down her neck, her sister’s suitors may include gold diggers, and she is being set up for a rash of society burglaries.

This is an enjoyable read, primarily for its main characters: Frances, her sister, their aunt, and George Hazelton, who helped Frances move her husband’s body. Frances is the first-person narrator, and those she cares about are clearly drawn, and those inconsequential are less well characterized. Lily’s suitors are indistinguishable from each other, and Graham and his wife Delia are inconsistently portrayed. Freeman has a deft hand with London society, and I enjoyed the budding friendship between Frances and her husband’s mistress. I suspect a sequel is in the offing.