An aristocrat and her maid take on a case of murder.
December 1918. The Great War has ended, and the inhabitants of Foxwood Hall and their guests look forward to a happy Christmas when Phoebe Renshaw, the 19-year-old middle sister of the family, overhears her older sister, Julia, having a nasty fight with Henry Leighton, Marquess of Allerton, to whom she’s supposed to become engaged. When she refuses him, he attempts to blackmail her with a secret he claims to know about a past indiscretion. Next morning, Henry is nowhere to be found when the time comes for the family to hand out the traditional Christmas boxes to the staff and each other. When Eva Huntford, Phoebe’s lady’s maid, opens her box at her parents’ home, it contains a signet ring with a finger still attached. Several other people get boxes that contain fingers, too. The fingers appear to belong to Henry, who has still not been found. Although the police are called, they find only some footprints in the snow that lead away from and then back to Foxwood Hall; not even an extensive search discloses Henry’s body. The police, not daunted, arrest one of the servants when they find a cleaver hidden in his room and learn that his sweetheart had been pestered by Henry. Phoebe and Eva, convinced that the servant is innocent, work both above- and below-stairs to winkle out secrets that may lead to the real killer.
Putting aside her Gilded Newport series (Murder at Beechwood, 2015, etc.), Maxwell provides a neat little mystery and a heavily atmospheric look at life in a great house after the trials of the war.