Death at Crookham Hall by Michelle Salter

It’s my stop today on the blog tour for Death at Crookham Hall by Michelle Salter. Many thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for the invite.

Title: Death at Crookham Hall (Iris Woodmore Mysteries #1)

Author: Michelle Salter

Published on: 18 January 2023

Genre: Cozy Mystery (Historical)

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Death at Crookham Hall is the first book in Michelle Salter’s Iris Woodmore Mystery series.

London 1920: For the first time ever, two women are competing against each other to become an MO. Reporter Iris Woodmore makes a startling discovery about her late mother’s Suffragette protest when she accompanies one of the candidates to the House of Commons.

The House of Commons is a place that holds painful memories. It’s the place that brought an end to Iris’s mother’s life. She and Mrs Siddons (the MP candidate) are talking about it when the waterman approaches them and says Violet Woodmore didn’t fall into River Thames – she jumped in.

Iris finds it difficult to believe that her mother would have jumped into The Thames. Though she was rescued and brought to a hospital, she was already weak after repeated hunger protests so the doctors couldn’t do much to save her.

Iris discovers that a suffragette and friend of her mother’s disappeared soon after the protest. Desperate to know the truth behind her mother’s fatal jump and the disappearing friend, Iris starts an investigation of her own. It leads her to Crookham Hall, an ancestral home where secrets and lies lead to murder…

What a fantastic series debut! I am out of words to describe this magnificent, mind-blowing and completely engrossing historical cozy mystery.

We have so many real-life events here: suffragette movement, women protesting to vote, women standing for elections for the first time, end of WW1 and soldiers returning home to find themselves jobless and war-related PTSD.

The story begins with a prologue. A young woman has escaped and is currently waiting at the designated spot to meet someone. She wonders if they will arrive – and they do. But they refuse to accompany her saying if they don’t return, their absence might become an issue.

Fast forward to 1920: Iris is having just another ‘normal’ morning at her workplace. She’s the only employee of Walden Herald. Since her mother’s demise, Iris alternates between living with her father and her aunt’s place at Walden. Iris’s boss tells her she’s to interview the two women candidates standing for MP. Iris’s mother’s friend Mrs Siddons is one of the candidates. Iris, no doubt, would support her.

As Iris meets with Mrs Siddons and are on their way to the House of Commons when they start to discuss Violet’s death. A waterman overhears their conversation and tells them that Violet jumped into the river. It wasn’t an accident. Nobody pushed her either. She voluntarily jumped in. Iris finds it difficult to accept that her mother would do such an act.

Then, Iris learns about a friend and fellow suffragette, Rebecca Dent, who disappeared soon after the Thames incident. (Violet jumping into River Thames, that is.) As Iris starts to look into Rebecca’s disappearance and her mother’s past, she stumbles across secrets… secrets so shocking and powerful that reporting them might come at a cost.

This story highlights various issues – worker’s rights over profits, abolishing child labour, access to affordable house – especially to those who lost a lot during the war, protecting environment over expanding business and, women’s rights to vote and use birth control. We also have a couple of characters (men) who had become ill-tempered and sully since returning from war. (PTSD)

One other thing that caught my attention was Iris’s dressing sense. She prefers to wear trousers. Some men are quite shocked to see a woman in trousers. Then we have a scene where Iris goes clubbing with a man and she’s shocked to see women wearing short skirts (knee-length.)

There are so two mysteries here (Violet’s Suffragette protests and that of Rebecca’s disappearance) and both are given equal importance. Iris might be an amateur sleuth but mark my words, she’s going to be one of the best investigation journalist. She has a knack for digging deeper into an issue and solving mysteries.

The second half of the book highlights employer exploitation and domestic violence (physical and sexual abuse.) The mystery behind Rebecca’s disappearance kept me guessing till the end. Nobody knew if she was dead. It was quite possible she was hiding from someone. In which case, what was she afraid of?

I loved the storytelling. Well-developed characters and plot-line. As a series debut, we have just the right amount of character introduction, series-scene setting and a mystery to keep one guessing till the end.

If you are looking for a interesting, unique, and captivating historical mystery, you might want to give Death at Crookham Hall by Michelle Salter a try.

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