A pet portraitist digs into a death at a house party where the other guests do not deign to acknowledge the dead.
The goddaughter of Susie Mahl’s mother’s second cousin once removed (or something like that) connects the otherwise middle-class pet portraitist to the fancy people of Norfolk. Although Susie isn’t much invested in their stratospheric class or status, her work is funded almost exclusively by their interest. In fact, when her mother arranges for Susie to join a weekend house party for eligible bachelor Archibald Barnabas Cooke Wellingham at Fontaburn Hall, Susie’s already in the area, having been commissioned to draw six of Aidan McCann’s National Hunt–winning racehorses. She attends the event with resignation, hoping to get some good stories for Toby Cropper, a friend she had the good fortune of meeting at an earlier such event (A Brush With Death, 2018), and to drum up some business. As expected, Archie’s other guests are upper-crust. They have little interest in Susie except for the irreverent Daniel Furr Egrant and American Hailey Dune, who seems as much an outlier as Susie. As the night winds down in local drinking games, Susie retires to her room until a house alarm rouses all the guests. All but one: Hailey can’t be roused, and the party surmises that perhaps she’d drunk enough to kill her. (The embarrassment of it all!) Susie isn’t sold on the explanation, and an extended visit from Toby raises her hopes that the two can dig into investigating Hailey’s sudden death. But Toby’s stay doesn’t have the romance-sparking, murder-solving flavor she’d hoped for, especially since he seems to be getting awfully friendly with flirtatious Lucy, Susie’s hostess in the country.
A Christie homage whose upper-crust humor targets readers who recognize the differences between a country house and a stately home.