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.