Book Review

‘Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman’ by Tessa Arlen

doadg taSTORY: 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 début 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.

REVIEW: The country estate, Lyntwood, home of Lord and Lady Montfort, is running smoothly as Clementine Elizabeth Talbot, the Countess of Montfort, is planning her yearly summer costume ball.

Ralph Cuthbert Talbot, the 6th Earl of Montort, is a good husband, father and well-respected employer. However, he is not actually looking forward to the ball as it not one of his favorite things.

They have 3 children, son, Harry, who lives on his own, plus two daughters, Althea and Verity who no longer live at home.  Their cousin, Teddy, will also join the family for the ball.  When his parents passed away, he came to live with, and was raised by, his uncle’s family.

Each person employed by the estate knows his/her job and place in the scheme of things. Housekeeper, Edith Jackson, oversees the running of the estate and meets daily with Clementine to make sure that meals, etc. are perfectly planned.  George Hollyoak is the butler and major domo and is a stickler for seeing that things are done correctly.  Mrs. Thwaite is the Cook and while her dishes are sublime, her garrulous nature can be rather irritating.  The family is very lucky to have in their employ Mr. Thrower, Head Gardner, and Ernest Stafford, Gardener.  Their talents are extraordinary in keeping the grounds and flowers in pristine order.

The ball is going nicely until Teddy is found murdered.  When the police become involved in investigating the murder, each person attending the ball and everyone in the house is questioned in depth.  On the same night, two young women vanish from the estate leaving many questions to be solved.  The questioning extends the time that all the guests and family members are asked to stay at the estate and becomes quite wearying for all concerned.

Clementine, Lady Montfort, and Edith, the Housekeeper take an unusual step by secretly sharing information that may help to solve the murder.

The characters in this novel show great creativity on the author’s part.  Just think of it as an episode of Downton Abbey with the ability to get to know the people both upstairs and downstairs.  I found the mystery to be extremely well written and one that the reader may not easily solve on their own.  Lots of twists and turns kept me glued until the last page.  This is a wonderful story of the Edwardian times that I will remember for a long time.

Connie for b2b


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