Author: Marty Wingate
Publisher: Random House – Alibi
Rating: 5 stars
Provided by Publisher
Blurb: Manager of a tourist center in a quaint British village, Julia Lanchester finds herself with more ideas than time. Her boss is the Earl Fotheringill himself, but apart from him, she doesn’t mix well with the aristocracy. Unfortunately, toxic mold forces her from her cottage and into one of the earl’s countless spare rooms at the Hall. She tries to get a handle on her overload of work, while she finds herself arguing with dinner guests, chaffing at the sudden interest the earl’s son has in running the estate, and missing her new beau, Michael Sedgwick.
Her life goes from bad to sinister when Julia discovers poisoned sparrowhawks on the expansive estate grounds. And soon after, she finds one of the Hall’s visitors murdered—felled by the same poison. While simultaneously both spooked and angry, she still can’t keep herself from snooping, and dragging Michael along into her investigation. But will she find the culprit before her own wings are clipped?
Review: When I first started this charming mystery, I wasn’t sure if I had missed a book in between the first one and this one. Some time had passed and I didn’t remember the changes–which is probably me. Julia Lancaster and her boyfriend Michael had evolved in their relationship; he was now working as her father’s assistant while filming his BBC orinthology program, A Bird in the Hand. Things were going swimmingly at the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) where Julia and Vera were busy making plans for all the exciting, potentially profitable events at Fotheringill. Linus was, as always, ever admiring while remaining utterly dull.
In the opening, Julia’s moved into the Fotheringill family estate, Hoggins Hall, since in August her little cottage in the village was discovered to have toxic mold. Pipit Cottage was being repaired along with several others on the estate–so it was just short term and incredibly convenient, what with a housekeeper and a butler, except for one thing. It was giving Linus ideas about their relationship that went beyond employer and employee.
Julia really liked Linus but she didn’t want his romantic affection–he was much older and dreadfully dreary. She was with Michael now, and she felt all kinds of weird whenever Michael visited her. Talk about your uncomfortable sitch.
As soon as I got settled into the story, though, it started moving. Linus had barely gotten the news out that he’d decided to hire an estate manager when, lo and behold, his son Cecil shows up from London with a friend. Freddy Peacock isn’t anyone’s idea of an upper crust toff, so why’s he with Cecil, who behaves very to-the-manor-born? They make very strange friends; even worse, Cecil starts messing about trying to interfere in the estate’s business. Which mainly impacts Julia. It’s hard enough getting stodgy Linus to agree to new and innovative ideas. If she’s also got to deal with Cecil, who seems like an a$$, it’s going to really be a PITA. Especially since Linus seems inclined to give his son his way to get in his good graces.
When Julia stumbles across a bunch of poisoned sparrow hawks, her investigation sets off a chain of events that include a smoking corpse, hidden affairs, and a visit from Linus’s ex-wife.
These books are absolutely fabulous, and they are the perfect antidote when you’ve gorged yourself on one too many alpha romances or paranormals. The construction is airtight yet it still feels cozy and veddy veddy British mystery at its finest! Loved it, can’t wait for the next!