Catherine LloydMay 31, 2022
Miss Morton and the English House Party Murder
Kensington Publishing Corporation 2022
As we soon find out in this opener to a new series set in 1830s London, Lady Caroline Morton’s illustrious heritage has been tarnished by the financial ruin and suicide of her father a few years earlier. The economic opportunities available to young women—especially noblewomen—in Victorian Britain are extremely limited. Caroline’s family has offered to support her, but life as a poor relation doesn’t appeal to her. As a result, she has broken with tradition and taken a position as companion to a wealthy but less-cultured widow, Mrs. Frogerton. One of her responsibilities is to prepare Mrs. Frogerton’s teenage daughter for her debut into society.
Caroline is settling into her new life when her Aunt Eleanor arrives to announce that she’s sponsoring a house party and expects Caroline to attend. To sweeten the deal, Aunt Eleanor invites Mrs. Frogerton and her daughter as well. Miss Morton (she considers the “Lady” inappropriate for a paid companion) can’t refuse when it’s pointed out that the house party provides a perfect setting to introduce Miss Frogerton to London’s high society. Caroline also wants to check on her younger sister, still living at their aunt’s house.
Caroline’s worst fears are realized when, not long after her entry to the estate, she encounters the man she was engaged to marry, only to have him turn his back on her without so much as a greeting. Bad turns to worse, including the troubling disappearance of a trusted servant, followed by a gruesome murder that Aunt Eleanor and her family insist must be an accident. Only the country doctor agrees with Caroline that an investigation is warranted. Meanwhile, the killer appears to be leaving clues in the nursery as to the identity of the next victim.
All this takes place in a classic locked-room setting, where torrential rains flood the Fens and prevent anyone within the house party or on the staff from leaving the estate. Catherine Lloyd weaves a gripping tale that pits a vividly imagined and complex set of characters against one another and the elements. If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, you won’t be able to put this one down.
Catherine Lloyd is the author of eight Kurland St. Mary mysteries, set in Regency England, and Miss Morton and the English House Party Murder (Kensington, 2022).
C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest novel, Song of the Sinner, appeared in January 2022.