A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (A Countess of Harleigh Mystery)

Written by Dianne Freeman
Review by Gini Grossenbacher

August 1899. American-born Frances Wynn, the newly widowed Countess of Harleigh, now living in London, settles into a quiet few summer months in London with her sister Lily while her fellow socialites are grouse-shooting on their country estates. Yet her summer becomes anything but quiet: her friend Mary Archer is found murdered, a fact made doubly sad since Frances had hoped Mary would wed her cousin Charles, even though their courtship had recently fizzled. Inside Mary’s home, Frances finds a bundle of notes with shocking revelations about London’s elites. Reeling from the discovery, Frances ponders what would motivate her gentle friend to harbor such information. Was she planning to blackmail the subjects of the notes? As time passes, Frances joins forces with her friend and love interest, George Hazelton. They both determine to find out if Mary is the real “Miss Information” who publishes in the local paper. In the midst of further discoveries, the paper’s editor is murdered, a fact which pulls Frances and George even deeper into the mystery.

This novel will appeal to readers who love a multi-layered mystery with twists and turns until the very end. So many dead ends turn into leads; so many clues seem meaningless, but then become keys to the solution. In the beginning, what seems to be an ordinary whodunnit becomes anything but, as Frances and George’s romance heats up, along with more revelations that pull the reader along. But at several points, this reader found the prose cluttered with characters, setting detail, or activities, making it hard to find the major plotline. This reader also had to do some rereading in order to figure out what was happening. Yet the ending satisfies in its tying up all loose threads.