Saturday, February 17, 2018

Review: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

The Mitford Murders (Mitford Murders #1)
by Jessica Fellowes
Release Date: January 23rd 2018 (First published September 14th 2017)
2018 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 420 Pages
ASIN: B073NZCGKF
ISBN: 978-1250170781
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Summary
It's 1919, and Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her life of poverty in London, and most of all her oppressive and dangerous uncle.

Louisa's salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor, in the Oxfordshire countryside. There she will become nurserymaid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy - an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories.

But then a nurse - Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake - is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the crimes of a murderer who will do anything to hide their secret . . .


My Thoughts
The Mitford Murders is the first book in series featuring the Mitford sisters.  When I first started reading the book I thought one of the Mitford sisters would be the main character and I was looking forward to that. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and I couldn't help but be disappointed. Luckily, that disappointment only lasted for a couple of chapters as the main character, a nursery maid, was actually quite interesting and I grew to really like her character and personality. 

First of all, I had no idea that this story was based on true events until I reached the end of the book and read some of the historical background to the events. Naturally, I went and looked it up on the Internet and what I discovered was quite interesting. As in the book, the real Nightingale Shore was traveling on the train in broad daylight and to this date, they still have not discovered the murderer's identity. Considering she was the goddaughter the THE Florence Nightingale made it that much more fascinating. 

As I mentioned previously, the main character, Louisa, grew on me throughout the story and I really enjoyed her transition from a scared and timid young girl to one who has discovered her sense of worth and who she can be. When she began working for the Mifords, she was afraid of being discovered by her wayward uncle who only wanted to use her to settle gambling debts. As her friendship with Nancy Mitford developed, she also seemed to develop her own identity and became more determined to discover the truth whether she wanted to hear it or not.  I really enjoyed her friendship with Nancy as they struggled with class differences even as they became quite good friends. I was a bit disappointed by the fact that I didn't really discover all that much about Nancy Mitford, but when I did get glimpses of her personality, it seemed to go in line with what I'd read about her; her stubborness, her jealousies regarding her sisters, her temper. Yet despite all of this, there was kindness and loyalty as well.  Despite the fact that history has portrayed her as quite intelligent and witty, it has also portrayed her as being silly, vain, and extremely jealous of her sister Pamela, and I liked that the book kept faith with that character.  While we did see a lot of the temperament happening, we didn't really get to see her budding wit and how people adored that aspect of her. 

I really enjoyed the friendship that developed between Louisa and Guy Sullivan, an employee of the train company on whose train Nightingale Shore was murdered.  Both Louisa and Guy are flawed characters; one was escaping her home life while the other was trying to learn how to stand up to brothers who tended to bully him, and together, they made a good team.  I enjoyed their interactions with each other, and was glad to discover this book wouldn't be another love story where everything works out in the end. 

What I couldn't get past was the development of the mystery; while it was fascinating, it was still slow and it was definitely easy to figure out where it was heading.  I actually think the author was trying too hard to make the book seem historically authentic which made some of the scenes actually worse as it just didn't always work.  There is also this tendency to view women as weak and in need of saving all of the time, and I quite doubt that all women of this time period were like that.  Just think; the marches and parades and other such things to allow women to vote took place during this time period so I wish more voice was given to them.  Or to the fact that women's place in society was changing.  There was some allusion to this with descriptions of women with short hair and dresses that were inappropriate but not enough.  That being said, the author can definitely write well, and you get a good glimpse of life during this time period, even if some of the things said or events being described, were a bit jarring.  

Verdict
I thought The Mitford Murders was a good book with a solid mystery, even if the mystery was slow to take off and it was quite easy to figure out the murderer.  For whatever reason, the solution didn't quite ring true to events, and I thought the murderer's character actually changed throughout the novel in a way that didn't quite sit true with me.  I did enjoy Louisa and Guy's characters and liked how they communicated with each other, developing a friendship rather it being forced on the reader. Nancy is quite young in this novel and there must be allowances for that as she would develop and hone her writing skills in France in the years to come as she tried to break away from her father's control to become more independent.  I did like how she tried to assert her independence only to have it broken down by her parents' strict rules and punishments.  They weren't cruel but they were definitely trying to hone down her impulse for adventure and fun.  Would I read the next book in this series?  Oh, yes, definitely, and I hope to see much more of the Mitford sisters as well.  There are definitely some interesting times ahead. And for anyone interested in the Nightingale Shore murder, I recently got this book as I thought it would shed some light on the murder: The Nightingale Shore Murder: Death of a World War 1 Heroine by Rosemary Cook.

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