Friday Book Whimsy: Bright Young Dead

Bright Young Dead, a novel by Jessica Fellowes, is the second book in the author’s Mitford series. This series features fictitious Louisa Cannon, who works as the nanny for the real-life Mitford family. The Mitfords are a well-known wealthy family of England. The six Mitford daughters, all reaching their formative years in the 1930s, were infamous for their somewhat scandalous behavior, and for epitomizing the early 20th Century.

In this particular novel, Nancy Mitford has a party with about a dozen of her friends, one of whom is pushed off the ledge of the nearby church’s bell tower. Immediately suspected is one of the party attendee’s maids, who accompanied her to the party as a chaperone, and who had an affair with the dead man.

Louisa, along with her friend Guy, a London police officer, set out to find the truth about Adrian Curtis’ murder. Along the way, we meet Alice Diamond and the Forty Thieves, a real-life gang of thieves in the 1930s. The gang was infamous for their thieving ways, but also for consisting of all women.

Given the lively story line, I expected the book to be much more engaging than I found it to be. I love to learn about history through novels, but this story moved very slowly. It was interesting enough to make me finish the book, but up until the final few chapters, it was oh so slow, despite the unique (and true) characters.

I read the first book in the series, The Mitford Murders, and enjoyed that book much more. I will give the next book in the series a try, and see if I just wasn’t in the right mood for this book.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Mitford Murders

The author of The Mitford Murders – Jessica Fellowes — is the niece of Julian Fellowes. She has co-authored several Downton Abbey companion books alongside her uncle. So it is not surprising that the novel – which I think is her first crack at fiction – has quite a feel of Downton Abbey to it. That, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s what prompted this reader to pick up the book.

The story is based on a real-life event – the actual murder of Florence Nightingale Shore, the goddaughter of famous nurse Florence Nightingale. The murder, which took place during the middle of the day on a train in 1920, was never solved in real life. Fellowes takes a stab at solving the mystery via her fictional protagonist Louise Cannon.

Louise is on the run from her wicked uncle who has promised great harm to Louise and/or her mother should she not continue to steal for him. She takes a job as a nanny to the Mitford children. Continuing with the combination of fiction and nonfiction, the Mitfords were a real-life and controversial British family known for their style and their politics. In this novel, Louise happens to ride on the train on which the murder takes place. Her connections to the Mitford family – and particularly her relationship with Nancy Mitford – keeps her connected to the murder case, which is being worked on by two young police detectives.

The book promises to be the first in a series that will feature Louise Cannon and one of the police officers, who develop a romantic connection.

The story had a fun upstairs/downstairs feel to it, though some of the characters and situations were a bit predictable. Fellowes’ writing could have a bit more literary drive to it. I found that I wasn’t particularly compelled to pick up the novel once I had put it down. The best thing about the book is that it is a so-called locked room mystery, something I always find fun and challenging.

I think there is hope for the series with a bit of character development and creativity.

It is a book that fans of Downton Abbey and other upstairs/downstairs novels might enjoy. Very light reading.

Here is a link to the book.