The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN By Tessa Arlen

Publisher:  Minotaur Books

Release Date:  January 6, 2015
Pages:  320
Genre:  Mystery/ Historical Fiction

Book Description:  Lady Montfort has been planning her annual summer costume ball for months, and with scrupulous care. Pulling together the food, flowers and a thousand other details for one of the most significant social occasions of the year is her happily accepted responsibility. But when her husband’s degenerate nephew is found murdered, it's more than the ball that is ruined. In fact, Lady Montfort fears that the official police enquiry, driven by petty snobbery and class prejudice, is pointing towards her son as a potential suspect.

Taking matters into her own hands, the rather over-imaginative countess enlists the help of her pragmatic housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, to investigate the case, track down the women that vanished the night of the murder, and clear her son’s name. As the two women search for a runaway housemaid and a headstrong young woman, they unearth the hidden lives of Lady Montfort’s close friends, servants and family and discover the identity of a murderer hiding in plain sight.

In this enchanting debut sure to appeal to fans of Downton Abbey, Tessa Arlen draws readers into a world exclusively enjoyed by the rich, privileged classes and suffered by the men and women who serve them. Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman is an elegant mystery filled with intriguing characters and fascinating descriptions of Edwardian life—a superb treat for those who love British novels.

Wanda's Thoughts: 
1900’s England – The story opens as preparations are being made for Lord and Lady Montfords’ annual summer ball. Clementine Talbot, Countess of Montford, always expected her summer ball to surpass the spectacle of luxury of previous years. But Lord Montford and Lady Clementine had no idea that this year’s ball would be one of the most talked-about events of the season.

The morning after the ball, Teddy Mallory is found murdered, swinging from a gibbet in Crow wood. Teddy was the nephew of Lord Montford, the son of his sister. Lord Montford had been Teddy’s legal guardian and he felt grief stricken and anguish for a young man who’d been part of his family since he was a child, and a child who’d been terribly spoiled all his life. Teddy had always been a difficult boy, always at odds with his surroundings.

Someone had done the unimaginable, a murder had been committed, and probably by someone they all knew. And there was more – there were two unaccountable disappearances from the house. Violet, a housemaid, had mysteriously disappeared, and Lucinda, a houseguest, was missing. Both women were missing at a critical time and took on a darker significance because of Teddy’s horrible death. Could they also be victims?

And the story unfolds as the mystery takes on a myriad of obstacles, and ends with a surprising, but satisfying conclusion.

I loved the setting of the book, feeling there was a strong similarity to Downton Abbey, and I was immediately submerged into the era. The descriptive writing, with many vivid details, was absolutely beautiful, making me feel like I was right there.

Unfortunately, the middle of the story seemed to stall a bit, and my interest declined. The last part of the book did pick up and I became somewhat engaged again, but it felt like a long read to me. I also had problems keeping up with all the characters – so many – I was confused at times. It might have been helpful to have a list of characters at the beginning of the book. My rating is 3.5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:  TESSA ARLEN, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. DEATH OF A DISHONORABLE GENTLEMAN is Tessa's first novel. She lives in Washington.