Dianne Freeman introduced mystery lovers to Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh in A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, debut novel in a new series.
Set in the waning days of Queen Victoria’s reign, it not only challenged mystery lovers to use their “little gray cells,” as Hercule Poirot would say, to solve a murder, but it also educated readers into the world of the the British aristocracy of the day.
Frances is back in Freeman’s second book, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder.
It’s summertime in London and as August 12, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, approaches, Countess Harleigh prepares to spend a few months with her “almost engaged” sister, Lily, while most members of the upper class flee the hot city and retire to their country estates for grouse-hunting shooting season. Frances has little interest in either shooting or finding a second husband.
But instead of a quiet respite from her social activities and responsibilities, she finds herself quickly embroiled in another murder.
One of her friends, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped to match Mary with her cousin Charles, thinking the attractive and witty Mary would make him a suitable bride. However, rather than a match, the relationship seems to have fizzled out recently.
As the days pass, Frances comes to learn that Mary wasn’t the quiet, demure young woman she appeared to be. It seems Mary has been writing a gossip column for a London newspaper, in which she detailed the private indiscretions of society’s elite. She sees for herself the dozens of notes hidden in Mary’s home filled with information about nearly everyone of the upper crust London society. There’s even some information about Frances that she would rather not become public knowledge.
Frances can’t believe her genteel and genial friend Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she have such a collection of juicy tidbits?
With the help of her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins helping the police solve a highly sensitive case. In doing so, she also learns more about her peers than she could possibly wish, realizing the number of suspects has climbed into the dozens, if not hundreds, of people who would benefit from Mary’s death.
As she continues to investigate, Frances comes closer and closer to the truth—so close, in fact, that she places herself in grave danger of becoming the killer’s next victim.
Stokely Memorial Library now has A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, along with A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. Both are delightful and entertaining.
Located at 383 East Broadway, Stokely Memorial Library is open Mondays—Saturdays from 10-5 and may be reached by telephone at 423-623-3832.