Mrs. Jeffries Defends Her Own (Berkley Prime Crime Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – 1 May 2012
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"It's murder most English all the way!"--The Literary Times
"It's murder most English all the way!" -- The Literary Times
It s murder most English all the way! The Literary Times"
About the Author
Emily Brightwell is the author of thirty Inspector Witherspoon and Mrs. Jeffries books.
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This book was the thirtieth book (I think!) in the series, but you don't need to read the previous books to understand this one. And this book didn't spoil the mysteries of the previous books, so you can read them out of order.
The story was primarily a clue-based mystery where the reader and characters need to discover and then sort through the clues to figure out whodunit. Though I thought it was fairly obvious that one or both of two specific characters were whodunit, Mrs. Jeffries had a valid reason to be a bit delayed in coming to the same conclusion. And then she cleverly set up a trap to determine whodunit without the Inspector being any the wiser that she was behind it. (This was handled believably.)
There was no sex. There was a minor amount of explicit bad language (some of it was British bad words). Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable and well-written mystery.
I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.
Mrs. Jeffries and her team know the case will be the most convoluted they ever undertook because their "front" beloved Inspector Witherspoon is not leading the inquiry. Instead Nivens, who apparently knows she is the brains of his rival's unparalleled success, leads the investigation.
The latest Mrs. Jeffries and retinue Victorian mystery (see Mrs. Jeffries and the Mistletoe Mix-Up, Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead and Mrs. Jeffries Forges Ahead) is a delightful puzzler as the heroine and her "under the stairs" crew work a whodunit made difficult by her in-law being the suspect and by another inspector in charge. Still, Mrs. Jeffries and the crew do what they always do investigate through their employer as this Victorian mystery is a fresh entry in a strong long running historical "police procedural" series.
The case is assigned to the pompous Inspector Nivens who, as usual, proceeds to bully the witnesses. Mrs. Jeffries, however, discreetly sets about with her team of faithful workers to investigate on behalf of Fiona. In the meantime Nivens accidently falls and fractures his ankle, and Inspector Witherspoon is assigned the case, much to Nivens very great annoyance. All the evidence points to Fiona Sutcliff as the murderer, but Mrs. Jeffries is determined to show that she was framed. With the help of her loyal Wiggins, Phyliss, Luty, Ruth, and the assistance of Constable Barnes, she sets in motion an effective plan that exposes the murderer. And the charming Inspector Witherspoon, of course, thinks that this all came about because of his "inner voice."
This endearing group of characters always delights in every Mrs. Jeffries work. However, I missed Betsy and Smythe, who were visiting Betsy's sister in Canada, in this book. But, it gave Phyliss an opportunity to blossom and come into her own. I have one criticism, unfortunately. When Mrs. Jeffries laments that "she drug everyone into this." I found this an egregious misuse of language. She should have said "dragged" not "drug." Mrs. Jeffries is an educated woman and speaks well. Why did Ms. Brightwell have her say "drug"?
Apart from this, over all this book was excellent, and I highly recommend it.
Of course they won't, shorthanded or not. Mrs. Jeffries' estranged sister-in-law, Fiona Sutcliffe, turns up on the doorstep and asks for help, fearing she'll be a suspect in the latest London murder case.
Mrs. Jeffries is torn; she and her late husband David were always treated coldly by David's socially ambitious sister after Fiona "married up." Fiona's husband runs his family's prosperous Yorkshire manufacturing company from headquarters in London, where he and Fiona moved several years before. Now the odious office manager of the firm has been found shot to death in his office, and Fiona was heard arguing with the dreadful man just a few days before, even uttering words about killing him in the heat of dispute. Memories of her beloved David convince Mrs. Jeffries that he would want her to help Fiona, so she consents.
This will not be at all easy, because the nasty Inspector Nivens has been assigned the case. With slim hopes of success, Mrs. Jeffries summons her helpers - the downstairs staff plus three friends from outside the household - and enlists the aid of Inspector Witherspoon's Constable Barnes. Barnes is in on the secret - as is apparently a lot of London - although thus far they've kept Inspector Witherspoon in the dark about his housekeeper's team of investigators who have helped steer him to the solution of so many crimes in the past.
The team soon learns that the victim was a nasty man indeed, and there must be a lot of people who would devoutly wish him dead. But even after Nivens breaks an ankle and Witherspoon's put on the case, things still look very bad for Fiona as a prime suspect. Fiona of course isn't helping, by stubbornly refusing to tell Mrs. Jeffries what her argument with the victim was about.
I thought this was one of the stronger books in the series, and I've read almost all of them. It was good to learn more about Mrs. Jeffries, as we have about the other household staff in turn. I spotted the solution well ahead of the end of the book, but because that makes me feel so smart, it's just another reason to like this cozy mystery. I realize that the speech patterns and probably a lot of the behavior, that occur in this narrative may not be strictly historically accurate. However, I like to think of the group gathered around the servants' dining table in Witherspoon's house, as a forward-thinking crowd, and there are enough historical details to set this tale as a period piece. For instance, in this novel we learn about the Police Pensions Act of 1890, and what it meant to the coppers on the beat as they came to the end of their working years.
Aside from missing Betsy and Smythe in this book, I truly enjoyed the story line and am looking forward to more from this talented author. I also anticipate the time when Inspector Nivens finally admits defeat and retires, though perhaps he is needed just to have a foil to Inspector Witherspoon.
In an aside, I'd like to see the earlier Mrs. Jeffries books, beginning with book four, reprinted as they truly are remarkably good.