Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman

Written by Tessa Arlen
Review by Fiona Alison

Clementine, Lady Montfort is preparing her lavish annual costume ball. Flowers are delicately arranged, sumptuous food is prepared and the staff is on high alert. Chancing across a violent argument between her son and his degenerate cousin, Teddy (subsequently found murdered), Clementine engages the unlikely investigational services of her housekeeper, a breach of servant/mistress etiquette which the very proper Mrs Jackson finds uncomfortable. Ever mindful of her place, her private inquiries (mostly eavesdropping) enable her to track down two young women who went missing the night of the murder.

Arlen conveys a genuine feel for Edwardian life in a grand manor house and takes the opportunity to exploit amusingly snobbish exchanges between the guests. There’s a healthy mix of upstairs and downstairs characters, and I would have liked to get to know some of them better. I felt at times the narrative strayed down paths which confused, rather than advanced, the storyline, and certain characters didn’t seem to me to have good reason to be there (daughter, Dowager, victim’s mother – yes even her!). But the murderer’s identity remained an enigma to me, and that’s surely the sign of a good mystery.