Before I discovered romance, I adored mysteries. The Mandie books. Encyclopedia Brown. Nancy Drew. The Hardy Boys. While I don't read many mysteries now, I've continually heard good things about Julianna Deering's Drew Farthering series, so I decided to break from the norm and give the latest installment, Dressed for Death, a look.
A Regency-Era Costume Party Should Have Been an Amusing Diversion, but it Seems Wherever Drew Farthering Goes, Mystery—and Murder—Are on the Guest List
Drew and Madeline Farthering arrive at a Regency-era house party at Winteroak House, excited to be reunited with old friends, including Drew's former Oxford classmate Talbot Cummins. Tal is there with his fiancée, Alice Henley, and though many present seem worried about the couple, nobody is prepared when Alice dies from an apparent overdose. Tal refuses to believe she'd taken the drugs intentionally, and a dark question arises of whether the death is an accident or murder.
The police have their own information though, and Drew is shocked when they arrest someone he's trusted and admired since his childhood—someone who's been smuggling drugs into the country for years. Stunned by what has happened, Tal begs Drew to get to the bottom of everything, but Drew has never felt more unsettled. Questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, Drew doesn't know whom to trust, and he's not ready for the secrets he's about to uncover—or the danger he'll bring down on everyone he holds dear.
Dressed for Death is a very enjoyable mystery. Set in England in the 1930s, the book definitely brought to mind Downton Abbey, though the show was set in the 1910s and 20s. In fact, every time the cook in Dressed for Death spoke, I heard Mrs. Pattmore's voice! Much of the story takes place at Winteroak House, an estate that I imagine looked similar to Downton. Winteroak faced the fate that many houses on Downton did—the original owners could no longer afford to keep it, and the Cummins family purchased it after Mr. Cummins rose to prominence as a businessman.
While the book started out fairly slowly, the action picked up following Alice's death. At that point, I was quickly swept into the novel, trying, along with Drew, to pick up on the clues. There's a red herring, and I completely fell for it; the reveal of the true villain completely surprised me, though in looking back, I can see the signs of the villain's identity.
Dressed for Death does contain murder, violence, and drug use, but most of it takes place off the page, and nothing is graphic or offensive. As far as mysteries go, it's pretty mild.
While I did struggle to become engaged in Dressed for Death at first, I think largely because mystery didn't really begin until more than a quarter of the way in, I never struggled to keep up, something that can be an issue when jumping into the fourth book of a series. I would like to go back and learn the characters' backstories, but knowledge of the previous books is absolutely not necessary for understanding this novel.
I think fans of Agatha Christie will really enjoy the Drew Farthering Mysteries, and Downton Abbey fans will find in them something to fill the gap left by the end of the beloved show. 4 stars.
Buy the book.
Read an excerpt.
Julianna Deering has always loved British history and literature and is particularly a fan of the classic mysteries written by Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. She graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas and now works for an attorney specializing in wills and estate planning. She lives outside Dallas, Texas, where she loves to quilt, cross-stitch, and watch hockey. Learn more at www.juliannadeering.com.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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