Counts, countesses, and corpses highlight Lucy Stone’s trip across the pond.
Despondent at the departure of her beloved grandson, Patrick, for Alaska, where her son, Toby, recently found a full-time government job, Lucy (Candy Corn Murder, 2015, etc.) agrees to accompany her friend Sue Finch to Moreton Manor, where her friend Peregrine Pryce-West, Earl of Wickham, is preparing a show of historic hats. Expecting Downton Abbey, Lucy finds Moreton a lot more Downstairs than Upstairs. Perry and his sister, Poppy, live in the old servants’ quarters, leaving most of the old manor house free for public tours. Perry does the cooking; Poppy handles the finances with no help from husband Gerald, who’s busy frolicking in the stables with comely Vickie Pryor-Keyes. Still, Lucy’s charmed by her attic room, with its Laura Ashley wallpaper and quaint vanity table. At least, until a bad smell invades Moreton: first figuratively, in the persons of snobbish Aunt Millicent and sour Harrison, who pollute Moreton’s easygoing atmosphere with demands for comforts befitting their stations as Countess of Wickham and her lady’s maid, and later, literally, as a mysterious odor forces Lady Wickham out of the main house. Lucy eventually traces the smell to a decomposing body. But unlike the body Lucy stumbled across earlier in the garden, presumed to have died of an overdose, her second corpse is clearly a murder victim since the room where he’s discovered has been walled off on all four sides.
A peek into British country life provides a nice break, offering enough local color to excuse a rather tepid puzzle.