Lady Phoebe Renshaw is back, along with her long-suffering lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, in Alyssa Maxwell’s second offering in the Downton Abbey-esque series Lady and the Lady’s Maid (the first was 2016’s Murder Most Malicious). Post-WWI England is still feeling the effects of the Great War and Lady Phoebe and Eva are busy collecting clothing, grooming, and household items for the returning vets.
At a thank you luncheon at Phoebe’s alma mater, the venerable Haverleigh School for Young Ladies, the headstrong Lady Zara has baked a miniature cake especially for the headmistress Henrietta Finch. When Miss Finch collapses and dies immediately after eating the cake, and testing shows it contained cyanide, Lady Phoebe and Eva are on the case, determined to sniff out the dastardly killer.
And there are suspects aplenty. Besides Lady Zara, there is the addled handyman, Elliott Ivers, with his lightning rod temper; Miss Verity Sedgewick, the assistant headmistress, who seems to dress above her means and wear expensive perfume; Olivia Delacy, the school nurse who is hesitant to actually nurse anyone; and the Reverend Amstead, head of the school’s governing body who is acting rather strangely. All of them seem suspect, and all have secrets they’d kill over rather than reveal.
In this delightful early 20th-century romp, Maxwell spoon feeds readers not only a good mystery, but just enough interesting facts and customs from the time period to keep the reader entertained. A nice cozy read.