A titled lady and her maid work to solve a murder at a girls’ school.
World War I has come to an end, but life in England continues to change in many ways. Phoebe Renshaw, granddaughter of the Earl of Wroxly, wants more than the rich husband that still seems to be the limit of her older sister Julia’s ambition. In collecting items useful to returned veterans and their families, Phoebe’s been helped by the students at the Haverleigh School for Young Ladies, where her younger sister, Lady Amelia, is a pupil. When the headmistress, Miss Finch, drops dead over her cup of tea, chaos ensues. Luckily, Phoebe and Eva Huntford, the lady’s maid the three sisters share, are on hand to quell the panic until the police arrive. Constable Brannock and his remote chief inspector at first dismiss the incident as an accidental poisoning, but, later, the constable suspects cyanide. Miss Finch alone had been served a cake supposedly made especially for her by haughty Lady Zara, who looks down on many of her fellow students, especially the scholarship girls. Brannock, who recalls how well Phoebe and Eva worked together solving another mystery (Murder Most Malicious, 2015), is eager to benefit from their inside knowledge this time. Verity Sedgewick not only wanted Miss Finch’s job, but is suspiciously well-dressed for an assistant headmistress; the school nurse’s wartime service includes a legacy of PTSD; the garden boy is hiding secrets; and Miss Finch herself had changed Lady Zara’s marks to high ones even though everyone knew she did the least amount of work possible. The unlikely sleuthing duo uses information from both upstairs and downstairs to solve the case.
Colorful information on the postwar period is combined with plenty of suspects, all neatly wrapped up in the style of a classic mystery.