Sunday, July 2, 2023

Review: The Mitford Secret by Jessica Fellowes

by Jessica Fellowes
Release Date: January 17, 2023
2023 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250819222
ASIN: B09Y4744HL
Audiobook: B0B64DQLYY
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.25 / 5 Stars

It’s 1941, and the Mitford household is splintered by the vicissitudes of war. To bring the clan together―maybe for one last time, Deborah invites them to Chatsworth for Christmas, along with a selection of society’s most impressive and glamorous guests, as well as old family friend Louisa Cannon, a private detective.

One night, a psychic arrives, and to liven things up Deborah agrees she may host a séance. But entertainment turns to dark mystery as the psychic reveals that a maid was murdered in this very same house―and she can prove it.

Louisa steps forward to try to solve the cold case. But with a house full of people who want nothing more than to bury their secrets, will she be able to unmask the murderer? And how deep does the truth lie?
My Thoughts
The Mitford Secret is the sixth entry in the Mitford Murders series, and although I said the last book would be my last one, I couldn't resist the setting; plus, this one is apparently the last one of the series, so I really needed to finish it. And to my everlasting surprise, this one happens to be my favourite of the lot.  A perfectly enjoyable country house mystery, with some interesting details from WWII thrown into the mix, and a nice group of historical figures  gathered together, there was a lot going on and I enjoyed reading about it all. Despite all of this however, I still felt like something was missing, something that would really draw me into their lives. 

First of all, I didn't find Louisa so irritating in this one and I definitely liked the interactions between her and her little daughter. With Guy in London, he wasn't really a part of the story, something in which I was disappointed as there was so much going on there I almost wish the setting had taken place there. However, it was nice to see the two of them be together once in a while. 

I think the problem with writing about the Mitfords is that they are so well known it can be difficult to do them justice and I don't really feel like the author allowed their individual personalities to really shine.  I still enjoyed the various characters, but I am familiar with who is who as well as what happened to each of them, but it makes me wonder what it is like reading about them if you have no knowledge of them and I think it could be confusing if read through these books.  Let's face it, the Mitfords were involved in all sorts of things politically, and I don't think the impact on the family went far enough in this book.  Furthermore, Chatsworth, what can I say? I did like how Deborah was portrayed and developed, as I can't even imagine the stress of what she was going through during this time period, but I don't think the others were developed enough.  It was interesting to read about the different relationships  in their adult years and how they manoeuvred through their political views during this difficult time.

The mystery itself was a bit weak, and considering the cast of characters staying at the house, it wasn't hard to figure out who was the culprit, I mean your choices were pretty limited.  I did feel like the author focused too much on the house and its goings-on rather than the mystery, something that also weakened the overall story.  I mean, how many times were they going to question Deborah's ability to host a Christmas party? Maybe just help her and move on.  But no, a lot of time spent discussing such trivial stuff, it slowed down the overall story.  

The Mitford Secret is the last book in the series, and while I enjoyed it, the mystery was the weakest element of the book.  It almost felt like the author was adding superfluous details to draw out the length, but all it did was make it feel like I was reading a historical fiction novel rather than a historical mystery.  However, the wartime details were well done, and I liked the glimpses of early Deborah, later to become Duchess of Devonshire and widely credited with the restoration of this magnificent home, Chatsworth. The details of the setting were really good and I enjoyed the descriptions of the home during this time period. It's too bad the mystery wasn't more exciting or compelling, and the rest of the characters weren't more developed, but overall, it was still fun and a nice way to end a series. I would love to see Guy and Louisa feature in their own mystery series in the future. Now that would be fun!