Title: A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (Countess of Harleigh #2)
Author: Dianne Freeman
Published on: 25 June 2019
Genre: Cozy Mystery (Historical)
A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is the second book in Dianne Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh mystery series.
It’s been three months since Frances, Lady Harleigh came face-to-face with her husband’s killer. Reggie was believed to have died of a heart attack until Inspector Delaney visited Frances’ London home to tell her that they have received anonymous letters stating otherwise. Turns out, Reggie was killed by his sister-in-law, Delia.
When Frances refused to part with her money for Harleigh manor’s repairs, Delia tried to kill her. The tiff ended with Frances pushing Delia away – act of self defense – and Delia falling off the railing, plunging to her death.
Graham, Delia’s husband put Harleigh manor on sale and moved with his two sons to London, soon after the incident. Graham had filed a case against Frances initially, claiming ownership to her money. But things changed when Delia died and he reconciled with Frances, admitting his mistake.
Lily, Frances’ eighteen-year-old sister arrived with Aunt Hetty for the Season. She met with three prospective suitors, one of whom turned out to be a fraud and murder (book #1). A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder begins with the reader learning of an engagement between Lilt and Leo Kendrick – one of the suitors she met at her debut. The proposal was accepted and the engagement is to be held in two weeks. Things are going a tad faster than Frances expected – she has no time to participate in the events leading to the engagement. After all, she has a murder case to solve!
Charles Evingdon, Reggie’s cousin, tells Frances that he would no longer see Mrs. Mary Archer. Frances had introduced the two, hoping to see their romance blossom. Charles does not give a concrete reason as to why he doesn’t want to court Mary anymore. Frances discusses this development with Lily, Lottie and Aunt Hetty on their way back home from a party. Aunt Hettie is reading a newspaper and she says the two would never be together… because Mrs. Mary Archer was found murdered in her home.
They reach home to see Inspector Delaney waiting for Frances. He asks her about her relationship with Mary. Frances says they were two grieving widows and acquaintances, not close friends. Then Delaney produces a note written by Mary – point-to-point detail of the tension between Graham and Frances three months ago. Unknowingly, Frances implicates Charles by saying he and Mary were seeing each other.
Feeling guilty for what she did, Frances asks George Hazelton, her neighbor and best friend’s brother, to prove Charles’ innocence and bring Mary’s killer to justice. George had previously worked for the government, some of his doings were not what would call, completely legal. He says one of his clients have requested him to go through the notes found in Mary’s house. He asks Charles and Frances to help him comb the notes for anything suspicious.
Soon, the trio learn that Mary had notes on all the rich and high – some baseless gossip while some, a bit suspicious. Did one of them kill Mary as she threatened to reveal their well-kept secret. Does this also mean Mary was a blackmailer?
In the previous book, Lily made a recommendation to Frances – introduce debutants at the Season. Charlotte Deaver, Lily’s friend from New York, arrives at the end of the Season. But she’s already made a name for herself – for being reckless. Many young and handsome men were injured trying to dance with Charlotte. Cannot blame her though, she’s a tad (ahem!) clumsy.
Graham used to manage accounts on his own and now, he feels lost in the never-ending pile of paperwork. He asks Aunt Hetty for help. Lottie says she has experience in organizing things so pitches in to help Aunt Hetty. Also, Frances needs someone to accompany her in investigating the suspects – Mary wrote around a hundred notes and each implicate a would-be/may-be suspect. Lottie and Frances pair-up for the investigation while Lily is busy preparing for her engagement party. Lottie seems to be quite good at sleuthing. Well, not all were born dancers so let’s not blame the poor clumsy girl for her… um, clumsiness.
In the previous book, George had asked Frances to marry him – only so that he could protect her. He reminds her of his offer in this book – plenty of times. They also share a kiss or two. *wink wink* But Frances wants to marry him for love and not because he feels it is his duty to protect her. The duo make an excellent sleuthing pair. And marriage might just seal the bond. *wink*
The mystery behind the murder kept me guessing till the end. We have a shocking twist in the second half of the book – something that Frances discovered by chance. This opens a whole new angle to the investigation – the suspects list changes too. I never saw this twist coming and it certainly made the story more interesting.
Excellent storytelling and character development. I have been binge reading this series and two books through so it is time to say: this series has made it to my favorites list. 😀
If you are looking for an engrossing and entertaining historical cozy mystery, I recommend you to give A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman a try. Remember: Gossip can lead to murder.