by T. E. Kinsey
Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.
But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There’s a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation…
As Lady Hardcastle and Flo delve deeper into rural rivalries and resentment, they uncover a web of intrigue that extends far beyond the village. With almost no one free from suspicion, they can be certain of only one fact: there is no such thing as a quiet life in the country.
(This was a shared read with Donald, selected mainly because it was a temporary freebie from Amazon.)
While it didn't hit my personal sweet spot, this book might appeal to fans of uncomplicated cozy mysteries set in England-- particularly if they like historical novels and unconventional (some might say anachronistic) heroines. (It's set a decade or so too early to be a "between-the-wars" cozy mystery, incidentally.)
The humor missed the mark for me, and the whole thing felt in need of editing. (There were too many things mentioned in passing that didn't really add to the story-- how characters got from point A to point B, etc.)
We're clearly supposed to come to love the two main characters, but I felt completely unengaged, emotionally. Their quirkiness and unique friendship (bridging the gap between the classes!!) failed to be quite as interesting (to me) as I think it was meant to be-- maybe because we are "told-- not shown" how it came about. The fact that its very uniqueness is pointed out to us repeatedly doesn't help, either...
The blurb creates the impression that there's something mysterious about Lady Hardcastle's and Flo's own histories-- and yet (in this first book, at least), when it's explained, it's a bit of let-down. Without venturing into spoiler territory, I felt that the two women must have some interesting (albeit unlikely) stories to tell, but we only get the bare-bones version-- and silly little teasing references to what sounded like more exciting tales than the one I was currently reading! Maybe their shared background is something that could be fleshed out in subsequent books, but the series didn't get off to a very promising start in this respect (or many others, I'm afraid).
The mysteries and solutions didn't strike me as particularly clever, either, unfortunately...
All in all, lackluster. For the right reader, this could be the beginning of a pleasant series, but it's not suited to my tastes.