Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Mitford Murders - Jessica Fellowes


Jessica Fellowes’s The Mitford Murders is the first book in what is now a well-established four-book series involving the real-life Mitford family. This first book is set in and around London shortly after World War I, “the war to end all wars,” has failed miserably at doing anything remotely like that. 


The mystery novel’s central characters are Louisa Cannon, a young woman desperate to escape the poverty of her London life, and the teen-aged Nancy Mitford, eldest of the six Mitford sisters who would all go on to achieve some combination of fame and notoriety in the following decades. Nancy, in fact, became a successful novelist. Half (more than half?) the fun of The Mitford Murders is getting a look at what life in the household may have been like while Nancy was still somewhere between innocent teen and young woman. 


Louisa, running from her abusive uncle, makes her London escape by landing a position in the Oxfordshire home of the Mitfords as assistant to the children’s nanny. Nancy immediately sees Louisa as a confidante she can trust rather than as a chaperone, and their relationship turns into a strong friendship of two equals. Things go well for the pair, and will continue to do so as long as Louisa can keep her uncle from discovering her whereabouts. But then everything changes when nurse Florence Nightingale Shore (goddaughter of the famous Florence Nightingale) is murdered in a train and Nancy, who considers herself a first-rate amateur sleuth, and Louisa start pushing around the edges of the investigation. With some help from the young cop who is infatuated by Louisa, they start to make some dangerous people very uncomfortable, and that is never a good thing.


I experienced The Mitford Murders as an audiobook, and I’m glad I did it that way because I discovered one of my new favorite audiobook narrators in Rachel Atkins. Atkins is quite the storyteller, and her talent of seamlessly flipping from accent to accent, along with her voice inflection and flair, helped make the various characters seem real - and easily identifiable. 


Bottom Line: I am not a big fan of the cozy genre, and even though this one - perhaps because it is based on a real-life unsolved murder - is a little rougher around the edges than many cozies are, I almost certainly would not have enjoyed it as much if I had flipped its pages for myself. And that complicates my overall rating of The Mitford Murders a bit. Overall, I rate this a 4-star book, the average of 5 stars for its narration and 3 stars for its plot. 


Jessica Fellowes

4 comments:

  1. I'm pondering whether or not I would like this one. The Mitford sisters were such a strange mixture, and it is difficult for me to forget Diana and Unity and their connections. I wonder how they were presented.

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    1. As I recall (whatever that's worth), those two are barely mentioned at all. They just blend into the group of small children in the nursery. You have to remember that this is pretty early in the family history...especially the children. It is really about Nancy, and the only other sister I recall being much involved in the story at all was Pamela.

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  2. Having read quite a lot about this strange family I'm not sure I would be able to suspend disbelief enough to read this. I realise of course that it's not meant to be believed, just enjoyed, but nevertheless it still feels a bit weird.

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    1. You don't really learn much about the Mitford's in this book, Cath. They could be just about any British upper class family of the day, really. It's more about the "downstairs" than the "upstairs" with the exception of the Nancy Mitford character - and her father's relationship with one of the suspects.

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