A Silent Stabbing (A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery)
The fifth entry in the Lady and Lady’s Maid mysteries finds Phoebe Renshaw and personal maid, Eva Huntford, once again on the trail of a murderer. Local pear farmer Keenan Ripley is struggling to make ends meet when his estranged brother, half-owner of the land, arrives in Little Barlow. A rather obnoxious character, he makes enemies quickly, but everyone is shocked when he is found dead! Another newcomer is an American prospector looking to buy the Keenan land to build a resort. This doesn’t sit well with the locals who are happily ensconced in their small Cotswold village. Stephen wants to sell; Keenan doesn’t. Keenan is arrested and to confuse matters further the under-gardener, William, has gone missing. The villagers rally together with ‘exuberant goodwill’ to harvest the pears while Keenan languishes in jail. Are they really good neighbours, or are they just not prepared to relinquish their precious ‘perry’ cider? When William is found he admits to being on the scene, but the killer’s identity remains elusive. Then a second body is found.
As with all cosy whodunits, there are many clues and many suspects, but Phoebe and Eva follow the trail in dauntless fashion. The Gloucestershire location of the village provides for a fine backdrop to the quirkiness of the local characters and the relationship between Phoebe and maid, Eva, somewhat altered since the Great War. The plot is convoluted enough to keep the murderer’s identity secret but simple enough to bring out the characters’ interactions within the close-knit community where everyone knows everyone else. Themes of family, sisterly, neighbourly and upper/lower class relationships are explored with care and affection. This will delight Maxwell’s readers as well as all who love a good cosy. And since they appear in the plot ―tea and scones, anyone?