Saturday, November 28, 2015

Empty Nest: A Birds of a Feather Mystery

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:  Mystery

Alibi Publishing
284 Pages
December 1, 2015
Five Stars

Manager of a tourist center in a quaint British village, Julia Lanchester finds herself with more ideas than time.  Her boss is the Earl Fotheringill himself, but apart from him, she doesn't mix well with the aristocracy.  Unfortunately, toxic mold forces her from her cottage and into one of the earl's countless spare rooms at the Hall.  She tries to get a handle on her overload of work, while she finds herself arguing with dinner guests, chaffing at the sudden interest the earl's son has in running the estate, and missing her new beau, Michael Sedgwick.

Her life goes from bad to sinister when Julia discovers poisoned sparrowhawks on the expansive estate grounds.  And soon after, she finds one of the Hall's visitors murdered - felled by the same poison.  While simultaneously both spooked and angry, she still can't keep herself from snooping, and dragging Michael along into her investigation.  But will she find the culprit before her own wings are clipped?


Julia Lanchester works for the Earl Fotheringill, as director of the Tour Information Center in his village.  Due to the fact that her little cottage has been discovered to have mold, she is currently residing in the earl's home as a guest.  On one evening at home, they are unexpectedly joined by the earl's son Cecil, who hasn't been there in years, and Cecil's friend Mr. Freddy Peacock.  Even though Julia is soon becoming uncomfortable staying at the hall now that the heir apparent has returned home, she is even more uncomfortable when a death occurs - just down the hall from her own rooms.  Then Cecil's mother Isabel appears, ready to do battle with the woman she considers an interloper, even though Isabel has been long divorced from Linus, the earl.

So Julia finds herself in the middle of what first appears to be an accident, but is later deemed to be a murder, and when everything points to Cecil as the suspect, she sees that her friend Linus is in pain over this and knows she must do whatever it takes to find the true killer.

Amongst all this, an old boyfriend reappears and asks for Julia's help, leaving her current boyfriend Michael suspicious and their budding relationship in danger of being derailed; her sister Bee is about to give birth; and a new estate agent, Geoffrey Addleton, questioning her about everything she is doing around the village and being belligerent in the process.  Julia indeed has her hands full.

While trying to keep her relationship with Michael on an even keel while she sorts out her feelings, she is at the same time staying at the hall out of her friendship for Linus and the fact she has decided she will help Cecil.  But at every turn Isabel, who sees Julia as a threat, does her best to make life uncomfortable for her and Julia soon finds herself sneaking back into her temporary home every evening after work in order to avoid the woman.  What Julia doesn't realize is that the murderer knows what she is doing and is determined to put her out of the way permanently.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  Ms. Wingate is able to give us a little slice of English village life, with a nice dose of murder to solve along the way.  Her characters are substantial without being over the top, and Julia is an intelligent woman who never needlessly puts herself in harms' way, nor takes actions which seem rash or unthinking, (which, as most people know, drives me crazy from time to time.)

In the end, Ms. Wingate has given us another delightful entry to the list of books she has already turned out, and I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


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A Souffle of Suspicion (A French Bistro Mystery #2)

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