Cutler (Guilty as Sin, 2015, etc.) presents two unlikely period sleuths with an unusually freighted missing person case.
Matthew Rowsley is the new land agent for Lord Croft, whose youth and careless attitude do not bode well for his neglected estate. Rowsley’s feeling his way with the suspicious tenants and the upper house staff: Mr. Bowman, the butler; Mrs. Faulkner, the housekeeper; and Mrs. Arden, the cook. Victorian morality is priggish and censorious, and Rowsley, whose parents are an archdeacon and a relatively liberated woman for the times, is appalled at the way the lower classes are treated by their self-appointed betters. When Maggie, one of the younger housemaids, goes missing, the staff is worried, although most of them assume she’s gotten pregnant and run off. Maggie’s mother, who’s squeezed her large family into the gatehouse, disclaims any knowledge of her whereabouts, and since Lord Croft has left suddenly on an extended trip with friends and his mother is also away, Rowsley takes it upon himself to organize a search. As the hunt for the missing maid continues, Rowsley develops an especially close relationship with Mrs. Faulkner, who seems to have secrets of her own. He’s especially unhappy with Theophilus Pounceman, a sanctimonious minister who blames women for leading men into temptation. Rowsley’s prowess on the cricket pitch and his concern for the estate workers earn him some new friendships, and most of them, even the boyfriend Maggie deserted, work to find her. Soon after Rowsley finds a clue to Maggie’s whereabouts, Lord Croft’s new carriage is found smashed and the horses gone, along with Croft and his valet, bringing the police to the estate. Her ladyship, who’s returned home, claims to know nothing, leaving Rowsley and his friends two mysteries to solve.
A promising series debut with engaging characters, social commentary, and a Victorian twist on the ever popular upstairs-downstairs storyline.