Murder at Melrose Court by Karen Baugh Menuhin
I normally read Christmas books in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I picked this one up well after the new year. I had seen it advertised on Amazon and I liked the look of the manor on the cover. Plus, the blurb says the book is a mixture of Agatha Christie and Downton Abbey, with a bit of Wodehouse and “a dog of distinction.” Um, four of my favorite things mixed together? Yes, please!
Major Heathcliff Lennox finds a man’s body on his doorstep one wintry day. He has no idea whose body it is or what the man may have been doing at Lennox’s house. The lining of the dead man’s jacket holds a piece of paper with a woman’s name written on it. Lennox tells the police he does not recognize the name, but in truth he knows very well who the woman is.
When Lennox reluctantly accepts an invitation to spend Christmas at Melrose Court with his uncle, Lord Charles Melrose, he is startled to find some unexpected guests staying there—some welcome, some not. And when the first murder at Melrose Court occurs and Lennox finds himself the prime suspect, things start to go downhill.
And while he’s at his uncle’s estate, Lennox just might find a connection to the dead man on his doorstep.
As you may have guessed from the art deco cover elements, this mystery is set during the 1920s. It’s got everything a good English mystery should have: a big, old manor house, a cast of characters that includes people both crusty and beguiling, and a good deal of snow. There’s also Mr. Fogg, (Lennox’s dog), a juicy connection to the Russian Revolution, and missing jewels.
This was a fun read that had me laughing out loud in parts. The cast of characters isn’t overly large, and each character is well-drawn and distinctive. The secondary characters all have reasons to be suspected of murder, so they add a nice layer of richness and interest to the book.
The mystery is well-crafted and there are plenty of red herrings. I did not guess whodunit until close to the end, and I love it when that happens. Though the story takes place around Christmastime, I don’t think you have to wait until then to read it.
If you like a traditional mystery with all the English countryside tropes and superb characters, this is a good choice. I hope you enjoy it if you pick up your own copy!