I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I love reading stories about the British aristocracy, and I am especially fond of stories set at country manor houses. I was very excited about the opportunity to read Murder Most Malicious by Alyssa Maxwell. The story is set in 1918, and although peace has been declared across Europe, everyone is still feeling the effects of the war.
It is Christmas at Foxwood Hall, and one of the guests- a dashing young Marquis- has gone missing. The next day, his fingers are found in several Boxing Day gifts distributed to various household servants and residents of the small village. The police are brought in, and after conducting interviews, an arrest is made.
But enterprising Lady Phoebe Renshaw, one of the young ladies of Foxwood Hall, is unconvinced. She knows she heard her older sister arguing with the Marquis the night before he went missing. While the evidence against the suspect is compelling, the distribution of the fingers suggests something far more personal. Lady Phoebe considers it her personal duty to ensure that a sense of safety and security is restored to Foxwood Hall.
It is not considered proper for young ladies to involve themselves in something so lurid, so Lady Phoebe engages the assistance of her ladies’ maid Eva. Of course, if Downton Abbey has taught us anything, it is that the lives of the people who work “downstairs” are just as interesting (if not more so) than the people living “upstairs”. It will take both women together to discover what happened to the missing Marquis. Lady Phoebe can easily move about the house without anyone questioning where she is- except for belowstairs. There are interactions that only Eva can have without raising everyone’s suspicions regarding their motives and “unladylike” activities.
I found the postwar setting to be fascinating. There is not one character who has not been profoundly affected by the war. Some of the scars are physical, and some are psychological. It should also be noted that the postwar era marks the waning days of the grandeur of the manor house. This is already apparent, as the household staff is already smaller than it was before the way began. This is first Christmas celebration following the end of the lean war years, but there is a sense of weariness and uncertainty of what the future holds.
I would absolutely recommend Murder Most Malicious. This is the first entry in a new mystery series, and I am looking forward to reading more of Lady Phoebe and Eva’s adventures.