Lady Takes the Case (Manor Cat Mystery)

Written by Eliza Casey
Review by Lauren Miller

If the idea of solving mysteries while living on a sprawling Elizabethan estate with secret passages sounds appealing, this may be the book for you. For Lady Cecilia Bates, such a place, Danby Hall, is home, but her life is threatened by the waning fortunes of her family and the prospect of an unwelcome marriage. If Cecilia’s brother, botanically-minded Patrick, is willing to do his duty and marry for a fortune, all shall be well. A glittering weekend of activities is planned for the stay of Miss Annabel Clarke, the target for both Patrick’s affections, and for a murderer in the house. But who could want to hurt the newly arrived heiress, and why? Lady Cecilia, aided by Annabel’s maid, Jane, and her cat, Jack, are determined to find out. Set in the twilight years of the pre-WWI era, it’s sure to be a promising weekend of conspicuous wealth, picture hats, and a whiskered detective.

The setting of the novel is firmly entrenched in the post-Edwardian aesthetic (Downton Abbey fans, take note), however the premise of a marriage for fortune is somewhat of an overworked trope from novels set in earlier generations. A minor number of endearments feel mildly anachronistic. The teaser, followed by a prologue, feels unnecessary and muddles the effectiveness of the opening narrative. The titular feline, Jack, plays a role in solving the mystery, but any anxiety over whether his caretaker, Miss Jane, will remain at Danby Hall is extinguished. How can there be a Manor Cat Mysteries series with no manor cat? Other than Lady Cecilia’s penchant for observations, there is not much to immediately recommend her, but it is hoped that, properly chaperoned of course, she will have plenty of adventures in future books that venture beyond the walls of her home.