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WWI, an English castle, + murder.

A Death by Any Other Name by Tessa Arlen
Pub. Date: March 14, 2017
Source: ARC + finished hardcover via publisher (Thank you, Minotaur!)
Summary: The elegant Lady Montfort and her redoubtable housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, investigate a murder among a group of amateur rose-breeders while the idyllic English summer days count down to the start of the First World War.

When Mrs. Jackson receives a visit from a cook who believes she was an indirect witness to murder from a poisoned dish of breakfast kedgeree Lady Montfort promises to do what she can to clear the cook’s name, and contrives an invitation to Hyde Castle, the home of a self-made millionaire, to investigate a murder of concealed passions and secret desires.

With the help of the invaluable Jackson Lady Montfort sets about solving the puzzle surrounding the death of the rose society’s most popular member and discovers a villain of audacious cunning among a group of mild-mannered, amateur rose-breeders.

While they investigate, the headlines bring news of the growing crisis in the Balkans following the assassination of.the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire. As each day brings more threatening news and the very real fear that Britain will be drawn into war, Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson must race against the clock to solve the mystery before Britain declares on Germany.
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Historical Mystery

Oh, I love my cozies. As gruesome and morbid as this might sound, there’s something so deliciously comforting about snuggling into a big armchair with a cup of tea (don’t forget the rain tapping at the window!) and diving headfirst into a murder. Okay, so with cozies the murder always happens off-screen, so I guess it’s not that gruesome. But still.

When I received word that a third Lady Montfort novel was coming out, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy! This series, set against a backdrop of tension surrounding the early days of the First World War, follows Lady Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, as they team up to investigate horrific and terrible crimes. As you do. In A Death by Any Other Name, word is received that there has been a death at Hyde Castle…and that the beloved cook has been unceremoniously sacked for poisoning the man. Was Mr. Bartholomew’s breakfast truly tainted or could there still be a murderer walking amongst the guests at the castle?

The pair gain entrance to Hyde Castle with a little help from a friend: Miss Jekyll, a wildly famously garden designer (and, side note: her brother was pals with Robert Louis Stevenson – it’s believed he borrowed the Jekyll name for a little story he wrote: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde). The guests currently at the castle are amateur rose-breeders; naturally they’re falling all over themselves at the thought of mingling with a celebrity in the gardening world!

While I know virtually nothing about gardening – particularly flowers – I thought the talk of roses was fascinating. Creating new strains, hybrids, what must be done to improve colors or scents, it was all so interesting! It also mixed perfectly with the drearier tones of the book: Mr. Bartholomew’s death and the oncoming war. Despite what rose-breeding might seem like on the surface: pretty, delicate flowers, a club of gentle high class ladies, it was surprisingly cutthroat! Particularly when a competition emerges, with the winning rose selected by Miss Jekyll herself. After a few chapters, I firmly believed a vicious murderer could blend right in!

Although I had hoped for more of a scandalous or shocking reveal (like the secret romance that blossoms between the upstairs and downstairs!!) I found that, by the end, I wasn’t disappointed. I was captivated the entire time and I loved how, as the story progressed, the war loomed ever closer. By the end, it’s announced that England is definitely going to enter, while Germany marches into France (Lady Montfort’s daughter and her family live in Paris). I imagine the next book will be even more gloom and doom – and I’ll be first in line to read all about it! As I type this review, the skies outside are stormy and it pairs so, so perfectly with this novel. While A Death by Any Other Name easily reads as a standalone, do yourself a favor and buy all three Lady Montfort novels – then wait until the next time it’s pouring and immerse yourself in this series. I love it and cannot wait for book four!

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