BWW Reviews: DEATH COMES TO THE VILLAGE by Catherine Lloyd
DEATH COMES TO THE VILLAGE by Catherine Lloyd, recently published by Kensington Publishers' Kensington Mystery imprint, is sure to please lovers of English mysteries. It may also please lovers of Regency romances, even though there's more humor and less romance between the two main characters.
Major Robert Kurland, injured at Waterloo, has returned to his ancestral home in the village of Kurland St. Mary. He's been invalided for far too long, and he's being prescribed opiates, so he might be imagining things when he thinks he sees untoward happenings outside his bedroom window at night.
Lucy Harrington, his childhood friend, is the rector's oldest daughter and the spinster lady of the rectory for her widowed father. She's also a strong-willed, naturally inquisitive - or is that nosy? - person, so when she comes to visit her old friend, it's no surprise he asks her to look into the matter.
The inquiry turns out to involve everyone from the rector's young associate to the children of Kurland's estate workers, and to center around a problem of disappearing maidservants who may - or may not - have run off to London to better their circumstances... or, Lucy and Robert fear, wind up in brothels instead. In the meantime, Lucy and Robert have their own staff problems, with cooks ruling roosts, butlers feuding with batmen, and nowhere to turn that doesn't have its own new problems facing one or both of them. And then there's the sudden visit of Robert's aunt... bringing the fiancée he can't bear to face now that he's an invalid.
Lucy Harrington has learned a great deal of life from her work as a clergyman's daughter. Can she be Robert's eyes and ears, and can she find out what happened outside the window one night, and where the missing housemaids have gone? Can she fend for herself against Robert's snobbish society fiancée? And are we glad that this is the first of an intended series? The answer must be "yes" to all of those - this is an absolutely delightful book that was, at nearly 300 pages, difficult to put down. This reviewer polished it off in one sitting and proceeded to read it again. The characters are vivid, the dialogue suggestive of Jane Austen taking up genre fiction, and the general tone absolutely charming. It's not quite a cozy mystery, thanks to the presence of military men and horseflesh, but Kurland St. Mary is very much like what Christie's St. Mary Mead must have been a century or so earlier, and Lucy Harrington has the snooping talents of a younger Miss Marple.
The real mystery here is when Lloyd's next novel in this series will come out. It can't come too soon.