Sunday, February 20, 2022

Review: The Mitford Vanishing by Jessica Fellowes

by Jessica Fellowes
Release Date: January 8, 2022
2022 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 1250819208
Audiobook: B09NB163JY
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

1937. War with Germany is dawning, and a civil war already raging in Spain. Split across political lines, the six Mitford sisters are more divided than ever. Meanwhile their former maid Louisa Cannon is now a private detective, working with her policeman husband Guy Sullivan.

Louisa and Guy are surprised when a call comes in from novelist Nancy Mitford requesting that they look into the disappearance of her Communist sister Jessica in Spain. But one case leads to another as they are also asked to investigate the mysterious vanishing of a soldier.
My Thoughts
The Mitford Vanishing had a pretty interesting premise, and I really liked the inclusion of the Spanish Civil War in this one, but the mystery took a long time to get going which really affected the pacing of the book.  I also think I got caught up in how easily everyone just seemed to jump back and forth from France to England, without a care in the world; I felt like I was reading something a bit more modern rather than something that was taking place only two years before the start of WWII.
I do think the strength of this novel is the character development, but at the same time, it's also its weakness.  I enjoyed the relationship between Louisa and Guy and how well they worked together, trying to build a detective agency during this time period.  I did feel like the author sometimes struggled trying to create a heroine who was independent, living in England with all of its rules and strictures, rules under which the Mitford sisters rebelled and created all sorts of issues and situations for their very strict parents.   While most of the characters are fiction, the Mitford family are actual historical figures and created quite a stir during this time period, something that I don't think goes far enough in this book.  Their political associations were quite varied, and Jessica vanishing with a man would have created a huge scandal.  Louisa's freedom to investigate, and travel all over the place, seems a bit far fetched to me, considering she is now a mother.  I think even the most open-minded male might have trouble swallowing that concept in the 1930s.  But, then again, the rules were often far more strict for the wealthy and titled than they were for the lower classes.   

While this book is well-written, it is a mystery novel and I felt like nothing really happens until the last third of the novel.  Yes, Louisa and Guy were chasing Jessica, but there was another mystery intertwined throughout that story line, and eventually the two merged together, but the getting there was a trial.  It's not that I didn't enjoy the search for Decca, but when something is packaged as a mystery novel, the pacing should be somewhat different.  I have often wondered if these books would have been better served to have been packaged as just historical fiction, whereby the author could have really focused on the politics of the Mitford sisters, with Louisa intertwined in their struggles, and included the mysteries as a interesting side.  The last third of the book suddenly took off, but unfortunately, there were just too many coincidences for it to be convincing for me.  

The Mitford Vanishing was interesting, but suffered from some pacing issues. And while I enjoyed the search for Decca, I did feel like more emphasis on developing the two story lines early on, and intertwining them a bit more, would have helped with the pacing. And while I enjoyed the character development, I did feel like Louisa was a bit flat in this one, as if the author struggled with Louisa as a mother and Louisa as an independent woman.  I continue to read these books as I am interested to see how things will develop as Louisa and the Mitfords enter the WWII era.