The Mitford Vanishing (The Mitford Murders, 5)

Written by Jessica Fellowes
Review by Kristen Hannum

In 1939, Louisa Cannon, former maid to the aristocratic Mitford family, is now a married mother going into business as a sleuth with her husband, a former policeman. When Jessica Mitford, the second to youngest of the six Mitford sisters, disappears, the family naturally turns to Louisa. They want Jessica found, and they don’t want the story to reach the tabloids. If they go to the police, it surely will.

Jessica, Louisa learns, has fallen in love with her cousin, Esmond Romilly, a communist. The two have, perhaps, gone to Spain to fight fascism.

Fellowes has based that part of this book, the fifth in the Mitford Murders series, on real events. Knowing that makes its slow pace—or, rather, classic pace—worth the reader’s patience. The social mores of the British aristocracy of the time meant that the fourth Mitford sister, Unity, with her gushing adulation of Adolf Hitler, was a bit of an embarrassment to the family. However, they considered Jessica’s openly rebellious relationship with her communist lover far worse.

The author skillfully weaves a second disappearance into this cleverly plotted mystery, and a surprise into its resolution. Louisa becomes increasingly confident as a detective, and I enjoyed watching her interact with those she needed to question, from the owner of a communist bookstore to the Mitfords themselves.

Fellowes also gives a great section of historical notes at the book’s end. It was sad to learn that the Mitford sisters’ father, David Freeman-Mitford, Second Baron Redesdale, never reconciled with Jessica, and 20 years later cut her out of his will. Fellowes recommends Jessica’s memoir, Hons and Rebels, in her helpful bibliography.