Title: A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (Countess of Harleigh Mystery #3)
Author: Dianne Freeman
Published on: 28 July 2020
Genre: Cozy Mystery (Historical)
A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder is the third book in Dianne Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh Mystery series.
Frances, Countess of Harleigh, feels there is calm before the storm. Over the past few months, she’s involved herself in solving so many mysteries that she feels weird to be in a peaceful situation. But it doesn’t last long. Her sister, Lily walks into the room – tear-stained and blotched cheeks – with Aunt Hetty in tow. When Frances enquires, she learns Lily is with a child.
Lily met Leo Kendrick a couple of months ago during the Season. They are engaged and will be married in two months. But Lily’s pregnancy has thrown a monkey wrench into their wedding plans. Aunt Hetty suggests the duo elope and stay away from London until the child’s birth. Daisy, Lily and Frances’ mother, is to arrive at London in a couple of days, and will certainly make things worse for Lily if she gets to know of the pregnancy.
Frances talks to George about this predicament and he offers Risings, his brother’s estate in the country, as a wedding venue. The wedding is preponed and scheduled to be held two weeks from now. The group packs their bags and take the train to Risings the next day while Hetty stays back in London to welcome Daisy and her son, Alonzo.
Leo Kendrick’s sisters – Clare, Anne and Eliza join Lily, Rose, Frances and Leo on their train journey. Eliza is married and has her husband Arthur in tow. Leo’s best friend and best man at the wedding is also present. Frances notices Lily is being too friendly with the best man. Frances is worried Lily’s leading the man down the wrong path. Eliza also notices the ‘friendship’ between the two and she’s not happy either.
When they arrive at their destination, Frances sees George waiting for them. Then, an incident occurs. The party is ready to get into their respective carriages when a load of luggage tumbles down the stairs. George and Leo barely escape the tumbling suitcases. As they reach the estate and settle down, another incident occurs. One of the grooms falls from his horse. He claims something struck him, resulting in his fall – and he’s never fallen off a horse before; like, never ever.
The next day, Rose, Anne and Frances return from horse riding to see the estate’s staff in a mood. Frances learns that one of the foremen died last night. When Frances and George visit the poor man’s room, they conclude the man was poisoned – with Arsenic. The local doctor is called in and he takes the beer bottle found in the victim’s room for testing. Many more incidents occur – and it becomes clear to Frances that someone’s out there, trying to harm or kill one of the three men: George, Leo or Charles.
In the previous book, we saw Lottie and Charles falling for each other. That was just a couple of months ago and in this book, we are told they are happily married. Charles is Frances’ cousin and Lottie is her first protégée.
For the first time, the readers get to ‘meet’ Daisy and Alonzo. In the previous books, we were given glimpses of the ‘estranged’ relationship between Daisy and Frances. Well, estranged in quotes because Daisy and Reggie made a deal that ended with Frances marrying Reggie. He was not a good man and his only interest lay in Frances’ dowry. Frances had an unhappy married life until his death – which later turned out to be a murder and not death due to natural causes.
There’s an interesting side story related to Lily and Leo. Lily’s loyalty to Leo is tested. Frances is worried Lily is giving Leo’s best friend too much attention. Then there is the nonstop bickering between Kendrick sisters. They never seem to get on and are always fighting.
Another interesting thing to note was Frances’ dilemma about her marriage. She and George were very much in love with each other. For the past couple of months, Frances has accompanied George on his sleuthing adventures. She wonders if her marriage to him might put a stop to this. She wants to continue to help him in investigations.
The mysterious ‘accidents’ and the foreman’s death kept me guessing till the end. When the incidents kept happening, it was pretty clear that one of the members from the wedding party is out to take revenge. We also have an interesting character here – a nephew of Lady Esther (neighbor). In the second half of the story, he plays quite an interesting and mysterious role.
The side stories of the recurring characters made the read even more interesting. Speaking of recurring characters, I missed Graham (Frances’ brother-in-law) and Inspector Delaney. Daisy and Alonzo’s arrival compensated the non-appearance of the aforementioned characters.
I absolutely enjoyed reading A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder by Dianne Freeman. I have been binge reading this series and so far, I am loving it. If you are looking for an engrossing and entertaining historical cozy mystery, do give this book a try.