In this third series installment, a newly engaged couple from 1930s Chicago visits blue-blooded relations in England.
Now that they’ve been fully welcomed into upper-class life, Henrietta Von Harmon and Clive Howard have a multitude of duties to attend to. First, of course, there’s their upcoming wedding—a lavish affair that will host their families, friends, and all of Clive’s parents’ upper-crust set. This is complicated by Henrietta’s grandfather Oldrich Exley, a man who has grand plans for his daughter Martha (Henrietta’s mother) and her brood. He also insists on walking Henrietta down the aisle at her wedding even though she’s promised her dear friend Mr. Hennessey that honor. Henrietta and Clive must figure out when to follow their hearts and when to give in to their class-conscious elders’ expectations. Meanwhile, Henrietta’s sister, Elsie, quickly becomes entangled with two men: steadfast but uninspiring (and oddly unsolicitous) Stan and the dashing Lt. Harrison Barnes-Smith, a man who’s shown interest in her but has a reputation as a scoundrel. After their wedding, the Howards head to England, where Clive’s uncle and aunt hold court at a crumbling but grand manse, Castle Linley. There, between dinner parties with aristocrats, they get wrapped up in another sordid case when a man is found robbed and murdered outside a pub, and the main culprit is Clive’s brooding cousin Wallace. Cox’s (A Ring of Truth, 2017, etc.) latest novel suffers from odd pacing, like its predecessor; the beginning drags, recapping the events between the last book and this one for many pages before any present action happens. The ending, by contrast, accelerates startlingly quickly, setting the stage for another series entry. However, Cox’s eye for historical detail remains sharp, and England through the Americans’ eyes is delightful, especially when relating the feeling of a country subdued after World War I: “Henrietta had observed that everything in England had an air of tradition and heavy formality to it, a quiet mutedness that pervaded all, like a painting so old that some of the color had leached out or faded.…Highbury, by comparison, was much more…dazzling. Brighter somehow.”
A pleasant, escapist diversion.