A Pinch of Poison: A Lady and A Lady’s Maid Mystery

Written by Alyssa Maxwell
Review by Viviane Crystal

The students of Haverleigh School for Young Ladies are being prepared to be wives who will raise fine families, support their esteemed husbands, and do charitable works for the needy, who live and suffer outside the fringes of this upper-class world. So the girls are proud at the luncheon they have prepared to reward those who have donated clothing, money and other useful gifts to the wounded veterans of WWI. Their joy and excitement are banished when their headmistress, Miss Finch, collapses immediately after tucking into the magnificent Madeira cake made by one of the students, Lady Zara Worthington. Miss Finch almost immediately dies, and the remainder of the story concerns finding out who poisoned her.

The mystery centers on Lady Phoebe and her maid, Eva, who assist the law in investigating the case. Possible suspects include the assistant headmistress, the school nurse, and any one of the students. Another mystery involving a young mentally challenged man is connected to a past death, which ultimately leads to his present arrest for assault.

The context of this account is social satire, but it also concentrates on the new world arising out of the ashes of the Great War, a society in which upper-class women would become useful in very different ways. It also concerns men and women who have been emotionally wounded in that same war and need to be defended and supported as they seek healing and purpose over time. A Pinch of Poison is a superb mystery that moves beyond stereotypical plots to highlight the dignity of men and women of all classes. A highly enjoyable historical mystery.