Sunday, November 1, 2015

Heirs and Assigns by Marjorie Eccles

Heirs and Assigns: A New British Country House Murder Mystery Series (Herbert Reardon Historical Mysteries). Marjorie Eccles. Severn House. November 2015. 224 pp.  ISBN#: 9780727885286.

Penrose Llewellyn has called his clan together for his 60th birthday in November 1928.  Since he’s recently suffered from a heart ailment, everyone in his family feels obligated to attend.  From the very beginning, the reader realizes this is a family not quite happy to be together.  Pen seems like a loving relative, but there’s an edge to his relationship with his brothers, Theo and Huwie, the latter who has been absent for years.  Theo is a successful lawyer and a rare book collector of books about music.  He and his haughty wife Claudia live well above their means but Theo is close to Pen and may be looking to inherit some wealth that is sorely needed.  Huwie seems like the black sheep of the family and others indicate he’s not to be trusted. The females in the family each have a bit of the wild side in them and clearly don’t get along, even the mother and daughter in the tale. There’s a close family doctor and some others who would like to marry into the clan but don’t seem able to accomplish their desires.

Imagine then the shock when Pen holds a family dinner before the big event and announces he will marry his garden designer, Anna.  The expectations for the family are now obviously diminished but even more so when Pen is found dead the next morning after the exciting family dinner. 

Herbert Reardon, a detective, is called into the case immediately.  He’s a shrewd character, physically scarred from the Great War, but no less loved by his sensible, liberal wife Ellen.  He sets about his investigation with the help of an assistant and becomes intrigued by the town’s antique bookseller from whom both Pen and Theo bought books for investment and love of old books.  The novel moves on rapidly with fascinating twists and turns and is totally unpredictable as who committed the dastardly deed.  Two other murders, one human and one canine, add to the mystery’s complexity.

Heirs and Assigns is a super historical mystery that is evenly paced, well-plotted, and contains just enough clues to sweep the reader to its very surprising end. It also adds some minor information about treatment of veterans from the War and those who refused to fight in the war, as well as the women’s reform movement for equality in that time.  Descriptions of the homes, shops, cooking, etc. abound realistically, including the great love for tea and some classic British meals.  Highly recommended for those who love a good mystery and a touch of Downton Abbey in between the puzzling and satisfying investigations.

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