Friday, April 3, 2009

Snobbery With Violence - Marion Chesney

When a marriage proposal appears imminent for the beautiful - if rebellious - Lady Rose Summer, her father wants to know if her suitor's intentions are honorable. He calls on Captain Harry Cathcart, the impoverished younger son of a baron, to do some intelligence work on the would-be fiance, Sir Geoffrey Blandon.After his success in uncovering Geoffrey's dishonorable motives, Harry fashions a career out of "fixing" things for wealthy aristocrats. So when the Marquess of Hedley finds one of his guests dead at a lavish house party, he knows just the man to call.But when Harry is caught between his client's desire
for discretion and his suspicion that murder may indeed have been committed, he enlists the help of Superintendent Kerridge of the Scotland Yard and Lady Rose, also a guest at Lord Hedley's.

I really do enjoy cosy mysteries and I prefer historical to contemporary so it was with great expectation that I started this Snobbery with Violence, an Edwardian murder mystery.

I must say that I enjoyed it very much and I almost laughed aloud at times. Lady Rose Summer was almost unbelievable at times, as she was much focused in the women's rights movement and the equality of rights between the lower and upper classes but at the same time, she seemed unaware of the proper behaviour to live in polite society and without proper knowledge of what being of the lower classes might entail.

The story starts with Lady Rose being pursued by a gentleman who is taking its time with the marriage proposal, Lady Rose's father hires Captain Cathcart to discover which are the man's intentions and unfortunately those were less than honourable. I understand Rose's anger at him and wanting to shame him publicly but it seemed odd that she did not know the double standard would actually make her an outcast while his sins would be quickly forgotten.

Rose and Captain Harry meet again when he is hired once more by her father to stop a visit from the king to their estate. It has come to the Earl's attention that the king wants to try his luck with Rose now that she is a fallen woman. Harry comes up with the idea of blowing up a bridge on the estate and blaming it on the bolshevists, which effectively scares the royal guest to be.

Due to her reputation, Rose is then invited to a house party on a strange fake castle where Lord Hedley has decided to gather those girls whose season was a failure and helping them find husbands. Not that Rose wants a husband of course. And here is where the mystery really starts. One the guest is found dead of what seems to be arsenic poisoning and the police are called to investigate but progresses little as the influences of the upper classes manage to call off the inquest. Rose immediately decides she must investigate and since Harry had been invited by Lord Hedley to try to solve the investigation discreetly there is nothing more obvious than bringing those two together.

This is a light and fun read and I think Chesney strong point is the characters she creates. Becket, who is Harry's man, and Daisy, a former chorus girl who becomes Rose's lady's maid are interesting characters and so is Inspector Kerridge. The police detective who keeps trying to solve the murders and mysteries he comes across only to see his actions stopped by the upper classes. The book is full of information about the distinctions between classes and about women’s role in society. I did like Harry and Rose although Rose did sometimes sound a bit TSTL and too socially awkward to truly be real. They are attracted to each other but spend most of the book in denial or misunderstanding each other's intentions.

The mystery ends up being solved by both of them after investigating everyone’s history and possible motives and Rose cannot resist a final confrontation with danger. A nice and entertaining read!

Grade: 4/5


  1. Wonderful review Ana. I don't read many cozy mysteries but I'll keep this one in mind.