Marion Chesney, Snobbery with Violence
Captain Harry Cathcart has recently been invalided out of the army and is looking for something to do with himself. Since he is a gentleman, he is not expected to work for a living; yet, although he is the younger son of a baron, the upper classes don’t entirely accept him as one of their own. Putting his ambiguous social standing to use, Harry becomes a discreet fixer for members of the upper class with problems that they’d like to keep quiet. In this capacity, he is hired to investigate Sir Geoffrey Blandon, a suitor of Lady Rose Summer, because Lady Rose’s father is unsure of the man’s intentions. Harry quickly discovers that Sir Geoffrey intends nothing honorable, but when Rose learns of Harry’s activities, she is furious with him. Unfortunately, Rose and Harry soon meet again at the Marquess of Hedley’s house party; but their constant bickering must take a backseat when one of the guests is found dead. Harry suspects murder and begins to investigate quietly. But when Rose insists on getting involved, her interference could prove deadly.
I’ve had a streak of disappointing books lately, and unfortunately, this one is no exception. I loved the idea of this book — mystery and romance in Edwardian England — but the execution fell sadly flat. Every character was a cardboard cutout, including the two protagonists. Harry is a dour alpha male type, while Rose is a feisty 21st-century heroine in period costume. She befriends her maid (a former actress), is active in the suffragette movement, and doesn’t enjoy the Season’s balls and parties like other girls do. Such characters could be interesting, if they ever rose above caricatures, but they never spoke or behaved like real human beings. The book occasionally attempts to comment on the social inequities of the era, but even its depiction of class struggles is superficial, not thought-provoking. As for the mystery, I can’t remember a thing about it, so I guess it was fine, but certainly nothing extraordinary. Marion Chesney is an extremely prolific author — she also writes as M.C. Beaton — so maybe her other books and series are better. But I have no hesitation in recommending others to skip this one!