I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Two of my favorite genres are historical fiction and mysteries, and when these two are combined, I’ll likely enjoy the result. I’m not very particular about historical era- I love Victorian stories, as well as stories set in the 1930s, and just about everything in between.
I received the opportunity to read Heirs and Assigns, the first entry in a new British country house murder mystery series by Marjorie Eccles. The story begins in 1928 with a pilgrimage; the entire Llewellyn clan is descending upon their ancestral home to celebrate the birthday of their patriarch, Penrose. Even the family black sheep/prodigal son Huwie has returned for the happy occasion. At a celebratory dinner the night before the big event, Pen makes an announcement that surprises everyone, and the family’s reaction disrupts the evening’s festivities. The dinner party breaks up, and everyone retires for the evening. The next morning, Pen is discovered dead in his bed.
Pen was not a young man, but he was not a particularly old man either. He was not in good health, but there are enough unanswered questions to warrant bringing in Inspector Reardon and Sergeant Gilmore. The family swears they didn’t hear any signs of a struggle, and that the doors were locked with nobody entering or leaving the house after the party broke up.
The search expands to the small village near Pen’s house. The Great War may have ended ten years before the events of this story, but its effects are almost tangible. Everyone seems profoundly affected; not only by Pen’s death, but also by their own life choices that led them to remain in their small village. Pen’s death serves as a catalyst for secrets to be revealed, but of course, the biggest secret is who hated the amicable Pen Llewellyn enough to kill him?
Heirs and Assigns started rather slowly, but I later realized that this is intentional. The introduction of characters (and there are quite a few) is a methodical process, and no detail should be considered unimportant. From the very beginning, we establish that anyone could be a suspect because everyone has a potential motive. The slow introduction is also indicative of the slow pace of village life. The world is changing around them, but there are only two telephones in the entire village.
I would recommend Heirs and Assigns. This wasn’t as funny or light as some of the other mystery series that I tend to gravitate towards, but this was a satisfying read. Family and loyalty are put to the test as a result of this shocking death. Eccles does a wonderful job of the ennui that the rest of the Llewellyns feel as they wait to see how the case unfolds. They are all suspects, and cannot return to their everyday lives until it has been proven that they are not involved in Pen’s death. I am looking forward to reading more country house mysteries from Marjorie Eccles.