Who can believe that this fun, entertaining, and well-written series now has forty books? It is amazing to realize how far our very naïve, backward, and unworldly Inspector has come since that first book. It is also amazing to see how his unknown crew of helpers has grown and matured in their means and methods of helping THEIR Inspector solve crimes – especially without letting him know he is being helped.
Christmas is rapidly approaching and everyone at Inspector Witherspoon’s is hoping their Inspector won’t catch any cases before the holiday because they are all looking forward to the celebrations. Sadly, that isn’t to be the case. Inspector Witherspoon is filling in for someone else when he is called to the scene of the murder of very wealthy Harriet Andover.
Harriet certainly had no intention of dying and spoiling anyone’s Christmas, but it seems that is just what happened when she is found in a locked room with the plaid belt to her husband’s robe wrapped tightly around her neck. Her husband seems grief-stricken – but is he really? Her step-children don’t even pretend they liked her, but the servants were all fond of her and appreciate her. She was a pleasant woman who treated the servants with respect and definitely improved their lives when she saw that they had proper food to eat and proper wages. It seems nobody really loved her though. At the same time, nobody seemed to hate her either.
There is, as always, much more to the inner workings of the family than is visible at first. While Inspector Witherspoon is quickly sure the servants aren’t involved in the death, there are five other residents in the household who could possibly have a motive. Mr. Jacob Andover, the husband, says he loved his wife – but did he? Her step-son, Percy Andover, was angry with her because she refused to keep supporting him and made him get a job. Mrs. Ellen Swineburn, Harriet’s step-daughter, felt Harriet was common and beneath the Andover’s social status – even though it was Harriet’s money that saved them all. Harriet’s best friend, Marcella Blakstone, is staying with the Andovers while her own home is having renovations done. There is also Harriet’s nephew from the United States, Reverend Daniel Wheeler, who has only just met his aunt for the first time. Is the murderer one of the house residents or guests? Or, is it someone from one of Harriet’s many and varied business dealings?
Inspector Gerald Witherspoon, Constable Griffiths, Constable Reed, and Constable Barnes will have their work cut out for them if they want to solve the case before Christmas. Of course, none of them other than Constable Barnes knows that they are also getting a massive dose of behind-the-scene help from the people who consider Inspector Witherspoon THEIR inspector and always want him to succeed. Mrs. Jeffries is the housekeeper and ring-leader of the group whose other members are: Luty Belle Crookshank – a wealthy American who loves bright colors; Hatchett, Luty Belle’s butler with benefits; Lady Ruby Cannonberry, widow of a peer; Smythe, the secretly very wealthy groom; Betsy, Smythe’s wife; Mrs. Goodge, the cook; Phyllis, the parlor maid; and Wiggins, the footman. With their wide set of skills, knowledge, social strata, and acquaintances – both home and abroad – they’ll fan out and gather clues they can surreptitiously pass along to the Inspector – especially through Constable Barnes.
This was a fun locked-room mystery and it took all of the skills and resources of our intrepid crew to solve the case and put the culprit where they belonged. We also get some good news and some upsetting news for our characters and we’ll just have to read the next books to see where it all goes.
I can definitely recommend this if you want an interesting mystery and some fun interactions with some lovely people. Now, I have to wait for the next one.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.