Captain Harry Cathcart returns to England from the Boer wars as taciturn man. The younger son of a Baron, he used to be happy-go lucky, but the war changed him. Now he is home, aimless and poor. Until his name is given to the Earl of Hadshire as someone who could help him with a problem.
The results of the small bit of detective work the Earl asks Harry to undertake are so successful that Harry suddenly finds himself in demand. Discreet word of mouth has it that for a hefty fee, Harry can "fix" things. Soon Harry is flush with cash and alive with purpose as he is helping the well-heeled upper crust discreetly fix their scandalous problems.
But his biggest challenge comes when he is engaged to help discreetly cover up the death of a member of a house party. When it seems that the woman didn't simply die accidently but was murdered,Harry draws the line. Instead he begins to investigate the murder.
To make matters worse, Lady Rose Summer, the daughter of his first patron, the Earl of Hadshire, is in attendance at the party and insists on being involved in every aspect of the investigation.
Rose is a determined and surprisingly enterprising young woman and before he knows it, he, Rose, his manservant Beckett and her maid Daisy find themselves sleuthing around a drafty castle and hunting down a shifty murderer.
I've read a few of Marion Chesney's regency romances back at the dawn of time, but I've never had the occasion to read any of her mysteries that she writes under the name of Mc Beaton. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Not just because it is just the type of cozy mystery I like to read just as a comfort read but I loved the setting and the characters.
Since most of my lighter reading set in historical times is usually in the romance genre, I very rarely get a glimpse of time periods outside of the Georgian or Regency. So this was nice to read a book set in the Edwardian era where the world is on the cusp of entering the modern era.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the characters, Harry especially. His change from the brooding veteran living frugally on his pension who is given a large berth by society because, well, he's depressing to the man who takes delight in playacting and detecting and enjoying the lucrative work is fun to see. I especially like how totally overboard he goes in some of his schemes to give his clients their money's worth. Harry was a great character and I completely and totally enjoyed him.
It took me some time to warm up to Rose because at first I thought she was a bit of a naive idiot. But the author allows the reader some time with Rose to see why she is the way she is. Her parents, although they love her, largely ignored her and left her to a radical governess who really didn't prepare Rose well for her station. As a result, Rose is something of a fish out of water even in the world she is supposed to inhabit seemlessly. She is a proto-feminst and activist in a time that is extremely unforgiving of both of those things. She is also a shy woman who simply doesn't know how to go on.
By the time the main mystery is in progress I am firmly on Rose's side. I especially enjoy how she simply has no delicacy when it comes to the less than savory parts of the mystery they are investigating. As it meanders into some fairly flagrantly sexual territory, some would think a young virgin like Rose would be dismayed with what she learns, but she is very matter of fact and frank when she discusses theories with Harry -- which completely flabbergasts him.
She and Harry clash and obviously are attracted to each other although both are in deep denial. I see that there are four books in the series so I fully expect Rose and Harry at some point to realize how they feel. But until then I am enjoying him being perplexed by her and she being upset by him.
Nice book with great characters main, colorful supporting characters, a great undertone of humor, and a neat little, albeit uncomplicated, mystery (I guessed the murderer fairly easily).
I listened to this on audio and Davina Porter who reads it is excellent.