A modern thriller involving members of the British aristocracy.
Munro (A Formidable Comfort, 2013) weaves together old mysteries, modern-art theft and some aristocratic back-stabbing in this intriguing tale. When American Catlyn Stacey inherits Southjoy Mission, a rambling estate near Bath, England, from her paternal grandfather, she moves into the old mansion until she can decide what to do. Overwhelmed by her sudden wealth and the mansion’s large staff, she finds solace in a diary left behind by one of her forebears, Ariana Stacey. As she tries her best to fit in with established upper-class society, Catlyn also fields offers to purchase the estate. Wanting to learn more about the property and her family’s history, she enlists the help of a retired history professor and an environmental scientist. Soon she sees signs that not everything’s right at Southjoy Mission, and things quickly go downhill: An ex-boyfriend shows up making threats, one of her new friends is murdered, and soon she finds herself in grave danger. The manor house with its many servants brings to mind a modern version of Downton Abbey, although in this case, it’s blended with a mystery and police procedural. A large cast of colorful characters provides a bit of a challenge to readers as they try to solve the crime. The book continues for some pages after the mystery is solved, leading eventually to a somewhat, bleak conclusion. The old-fashioned style of languageand storytelling suits the old estate setting but sometimes obscures the story (“It was a suggestion, not advice, or more to the point, actually an order he expected her to obey”). However, there are appealing hints of romance and some moments of levity, usually involving the household staff and a dog named Biscuit.
A pleasantly old-fashioned mystery in a present-day setting.