I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Fliss Chester’s first book in this series Death Among the Diamonds – see my review. So when I had the opportunity to get hold of an arc of this second book, I jumped at the opportunity – especially as it’s set in Cornwall, a place I absolutely love.
BLURB: A seaside party at a Cornish mansion with plenty of fizz, what could be more perfect? But something fishy is afoot… a killer lurks among the guests, and only Cressida Fawcett can stop them.
When Cressida Fawcett is invited to stay at Penbeagle House on the Cornish coast for a fancy-dress ball, she is looking forward to sipping rum cocktails clad as a pirate, watching the red-sailed boats go by and relaxing in the sea air with her good friend Dotty. But before they can raise their glasses to toast Cressida’s former flame Lord Canterbury’s engagement, he drops dead in front of the horrified guests.
The local doctor determines that Lord Canterbury was poisoned, and soon Detective Chief Inspector Andrews is on his way from Scotland Yard. But Cressida is dismayed by the murder of the intrepid explorer who once asked for her hand in marriage, and she cannot simply leave the case to the police. Together with Dotty and her little pug Ruby, Cressida searches for clues only to discover that many of the guests have a motive for murder. Did an irate journalist or a bitter fellow explorer send Lord Canterbury on his untimely final journey?
REVIEW: I have cut short the rather chatty blurb, which gives away a major plot twist too many and would definitely spoil your enjoyment. So don’t read it before tucking into this 1920s whodunit. Once again, I was swept away by Cressida’s gung-ho attitude to life – the kind of assurance that comes from being born into a rich, titled family. I also like the fact that she has determined to hang onto her independence and is reluctant to get married. After all, she has an income of her own, a lovely little car that takes her everywhere and the companionship of her adored pug, Ruby – why would she want to throw that all up for a husband?
The beginning of the book sees her zooming around the small, twisting Cornish roads far too fast in the company of her dear little dog and her best friend, Dotty, who is terrified by her very erratic driving. They are off to one of the social events of the year – the annual fancy dress ball at Penbeagle House. However the fun and frolics soon come to an abrupt stop when Cressida’s former suitor, Lord Canterbury, drops dead in the midst of the crowded party. Cressida fears the fit young man has been poisoned and the local doctor in attendance agrees with her.
Cressida summons DCI Andrews from Scotland Yard to come and investigate, but in the meantime, she is determined to do a bit of sleuthing before he arrives. Andrews isn’t as hostile to her interference as you’d think, because there is family history – Andrews went through the war with Cressida’s father. While Lord Canterbury seems an amiable young man, it appears that he had managed to run up a long list of people who have a grudge against him. I liked the list of suspects, which meant there were plenty of red herrings in play. I also like that Chester knows her history of the time – and that while women of a certain class with a drug addiction might not be regarded as ideal, it wasn’t the disgrace you might think. After all, within living memory opiates had been freely available over the counter as medicines for the kinds of nervous complaints common among upper class women, often as a consequence of being very confined within rigid societal expectations. I appreciated Chester’s nod to the darker consequences of those expectations within the story – and liked how she resolved the issue.
All in all, this is an engaging, enjoyable read, full of incident and some humour. Ruby, the little dog, also features constantly. I love how it never crosses Cressida’s mind that her rather spoilt little pug might not be welcomed by everyone. Recommended for fans of cosy whodunits in a 1920s setting, featuring a feisty heroine who could certainly be labelled a flapper. While I obtained an audiobook arc of Death by a Cornish Cove from the publishers via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.