Book Review

‘A Pinch of Poison’ by Alyssa Maxwell

apop-amSTORY: In post–World War I England, Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, encounter an uncharitable killer at a charity luncheon sponsored by a posh school for girls . . .

Good deeds build good character, and good character is what the Haverleigh School for Young Ladies is all about. Lady Phoebe—with the tireless assistance of Eva—has organized a luncheon at the school to benefit wounded veterans of the Great War, encouraging the students to participate in the cooking and the baking. But too many cooks do more than spoil the broth—they add up to a recipe for disaster when the school’s headmistress, Miss Finch, is poisoned.

The girls at Haverleigh all come from highly respected families, none of whom will countenance their darling daughters being harassed like common criminals by the local police. So Lady Phoebe steps in to handle the wealthy young debutantes with tact and discretion, while Eva cozies up to the staff. Did one of the girls resent the headmistress enough to do her in? Did a teacher bear a grudge? What about the school nurse, clearly shell shocked from her service in the war? No one is above suspicion, not even members of the school’s governing body, some of whom objected to Miss Finch’s “modern” methods.

But Lady Phoebe and Eva will have to sleuth with great stealth—or the cornered killer may try to teach someone else a lethal lesson.

REVIEW: April 1919

Lady Phoebe Renshaw, age 20, granddaughter of the Earl of Wroxly, lost her father in the war 3 years ago. She has two sisters and the three share Eva Huntford who is their lady’s maid. They live with their grandparents, Lord and Lady Wroxly, at Haverleigh House.

Today, Phoebe is giving a talk at the Haverleigh School for Young Ladies, where she got her education. She is expressing her concern about the veterans of the war and their families. The students have been quite helpful in collecting clothing and household goods for families in the Cotswold. It was her idea to form the Relief and Comfort of Veterans and their Families, RCVF, and Phoebe is quite proud of the fact. She feels that she can no longer feel comfortable enjoying a life of ease while others are suffering.

When a commotion erupts in the kitchen of the school. Phoebe intervenes and finds that one of the students, Zara Worthington, a known troublemaker, seems to be in the middle of some controversy. The students are all in charge of fixing the luncheon for the guests. The girls had worked hard on a selection of dessert to serve the attendees.

Miss Finch is the school’s headmistress and Miss Sedgewick is the school’s administrator. Miss Finch is just tasting a madiera cake made by one of the students, when she falls over choking and dies. The school nurse is called to the scene but seems too shocked to immediately provide aid, but finally relents.

Chief Inspector Perkins orders an inquest to find out how and why the woman died. They suspect that she had been poisoned – hopefully accidentally. They wonder if Zara Worthington, who made the dessert, could have poisoned the woman. The cook says that Miss Finch was a caring person and is quite upset at her death.

Phoebe and Eva had been involved in solving a murder mystery not too long ago so they decide to team up again to find the killer.

Miles Brannock who work with the police department is somewhat taken aback at Eva and Phoebe doing their own investigating. He is drawn to Eva and has asked her out in the past but she continually turns him down. She says she is too busy caring for the ladies. But the girls agree to share their findings with him.

Lord Owen Seabright is a wealthy man who owns a textile business. He and Phoebe have known each other for some time and are attracted to one another. The two of them had been involved in solving a previous murder so he is interested in finding out more about Miss Finch’s death.

This was a well-written and involved mystery. I have just touched on some of the characters here but there are others that bring the story together. I read the previous mystery novel in this series but this one interested me much more than the first. I have read all of this author’s novels to date and enjoy her books about Newport. I think others will like her books as well.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b


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