Drew Farthering is fresh off the success of solving the murder of his mother and step-father. During which time he met Madeline the woman of his dreams. Now that the tragedy is behind them, he is attempting to convince his American girlfriend to settle down in England and marry him. Though she loves Drew, she asks for more time to make such an important decision.
Unfortunately circumstances intervene in the arrival of Madeline’s prickly Aunt Ruth. She is determined to drag her niece back to Chicago, away from the man she views as an insincere playboy. And then of course, there is the added interruption of the murder of Drew’s family attorney.
Thanks to Drew’s keen eye and nimble mind, the local police detective invites Drew’s help in solving this latest crime. Drew is unprepared for how involved he will actually become. More murder victims keep appearing with seemingly no apparent connection to each other other than hatpins stuck through notes left on the victim’s chests. Even more disturbing is that these crimes continue to move closer and closer in proximity to Drew’s family home and the village of Farthering St. John. Will this amateur sleuth solve this mystery before the murderer strikes again? Or was his first success just luck? Even more importantly, will Drew be able to win over Madeline’s Aunt Ruth before she talks her niece into leaving England and Drew for good?
Death by the Book is the second in what is currently a six part historical murder mystery series. It falls into what is currently known as the cozy mystery genre as it treads lightly when it comes to sexuality and violence.
I’ve seen this series compared to the classic film series The Thin Man and I can see why. Although the setting is in England and not America, it features a male and female crime solving team. They are a loving and affectionate couple who gain a kind of macabre-less pleasure in finding out “whodunit”. Of course, the 1930’s time setting also helps strengthen the comparison.
It is also similar in tone to the recent spate of British television mystery series like Grantchester and Father Brown. It has the same quintessential English charm featuring quirky characters and the interactions of daily village life.
I love Drew and Madeline. Drew is the charming, affable country gentlemen who takes seriously the idea of noblesse oblige. He is unflappable and good natured whether confronted with Aunt Ruth’s instant dislike of him or the trauma of a crime scene. Madeline, with her poise and humor, not to mention her curiosity and bravery is a great match for him. I particularly love how Drew calls Madeline, darling. For some reason I can’t explain, it is my favorite endearment. It serves well to portray Drew’s love and respect for the woman who hesitates to commit to him.
I also appreciate the addition of Drew’s friend and estate manager Nick as the well-loved but perennial third wheel of this crime solving team. It’s not often that you see a mixed sex trio working successfully together without it becoming a love triangle. Their friendship is uncluttered with emotional confusion and makes for a stronger story. I would like to see Nick gain his own love interest at some point.
Although it has been a while since I read the first book in this series, I do believe that Madeline and Nick played a larger part in solving that mystery. Even though they both still have supporting parts in Death by the Book, I do miss their involvement in Drew’s investigations. But that is really my only complaint. I even like the addition of Aunt Ruth for added conflict to Drew and Madeline’s relationship.
One thing I must highlight is the title. I didn’t think much of it until I came to the end of the story. I then realized the importance of it as its’ own little clue especially for the reader. Though we do see Drew as he gathers clues, we are not always privy to his inner ponderings of them. This means that the reader often misses the significance and the connection of certain clues. But the title, Death by the Book, is the author’s little gift to the reader instead of the character to help in tying together very important pieces of evidence.
Death by the Book is an intriguing and charming continuation of the Drew Farthering mysteries and I look forward to reading the rest of the titles in this series.