on 1 April 2015
I really do enjoy Kate's Pennyfoot Hotel mysteries..However this one nearly put me off. Reason, I thought we were going to lose the wonderful characters, Mrs.Chubb, Gertie, even the old colonel Fortescue. Not to be, they are all back. Five star material and recommended to all Kindle readers.
on 6 February 2011
This historical novel take places in the England of 1912, at the end of the Edwardian period. Mr and Mrs (Cecily) Hugh Baxter were the proprietors/owners of the Pennyfoot Hotel at Badgers End before they sold it to Edward Sandringham, the cousin of Mrs Baxter's first husband. (As an aside, the author Kate Kingsbury was born in England, and is also twice married. Perhaps the author has placed a bit of herself into Cecily's character). Edward had converted it into the Pennyfoot Country Club. Edward needs to leave urgently for South Africa so he writes the Baxter's to see if they can manage the Country Club during the Christmas season until he returns.
At Pennyfoot they learn from one of the more garrulous housemaids, Jenny, that Barry Wrothan, the previous manger, had been widely disliked. From the stable manager they hear that Wrothan's death was likely not an accident. Mrs. Baxter's friend Madeline tells Cecily that she is in grave danger if she involves herself with the death of the previous manager. Of course, this does not stop Cecily.
This is a enjoyable and pleasantly written cozy mystery, but with more story telling than mystery. It is longer than necessary to establish the plot and relatively modest mystery. The author appears to capture the social milieu of the time, with a husband who knows he has the right to 'manage his wife, hired help that needs to know their place, a clear class system, staff poised between servants and employees (e.g., Jenny is 'ordered' rather than asked to bring coffee), and derogatory comments about women in management. Viewed through today's prism, Mr. Baxter might appear as an overbearing misogynist, making the novel less enjoyable for some. However, viewed in the novel's historical context he is probably just about right. The plot's solution was not obvious to me, perhaps because it appeared to come somewhat "out-of-the-blue", with its primary "clues" established relatively late in the novel.
Bottom-line: Quite enjoyable cozy with characters you'll care about with a modest denouement, but the story is mostly an excellently written "set" piece. The small mystery and its solution could easily have been written as a short story. Most of the book is a description of human interactions, attitudes, and physical settings, often only marginally related to the mystery. Read it more for its delightful characters and setting than its mystery.