REVIEW: Mystery Loves Company by Sheri Cobb South
Returning to London after his honeymoon (For Deader or Worse), Bow Street Runner John Pickett soon discovers wedded bliss is not without its pitfalls, as he finds it galling to be financially dependent on Julia, his aristocratic bride. When he is summoned to the home of Lady Washbourn, Pickett finds he has something in common with the young countess: like himself, Lady Washbourn has married above her station, and now finds herself adrift in a world to which she does not truly belong.
After a series of unsettling incidents dismissed as accidents by Lord Washbourn and his mother, the dowager countess, Lady Washbourn fears her husband is trying to kill her. The couple will be hosting a masquerade ball, and the countess fears the anonymity of masks and costumes may afford Lord Washbourn an opportunity to make another, bolder attempt on her life. Tricked out in fancy dress for the occasion, Pickett feels more than a little foolish, but when one of the housemaids dies shortly after stealing a sip of Lady Washbourn’s ratafia, he realizes her ladyship s fears were not unfounded.
Then the coroner’s jury returns a verdict of death by natural causes, and Lord Washbourn makes it clear that he considers the matter settled. Pickett stakes his professional reputation on proving the maid was murdered with a poison intended for her mistress. And with a reward of fifty pounds sterling riding on his successful resolution of the case, the marriage Pickett saves just might be his own.
Dear Ms. Cobb South,
I thought poor John Pickett couldn’t face anything worse than his new – shocked – in-laws in “For Deader or Worse,” but this might top that. The honeymoon is over and now John – former pickpocket turned coal hauler turned Bow Street Runner now investigator – and his aristocratic bride Julia have to begin the real work: their marriage. A year ago neither could have imagined they’d be where they are and with the Polite World watching John has to swallow his pride while Julia risks snubs from the Ton.
The new case he’s working on might give John the chance to earn a little extra cash so he won’t feel completely dependent on Julia’s widow’s jointure to support them. His client is also a newcomer to the aristocratic world and faced with something worse than even John – the suspicion that her husband is trying to eliminate her after pocketing her dowry so that he can be with his first love. A few close calls later and there is a murder though John can’t get the coroner to agree with him about that.
Meanwhile Julia is trying to ease John’s way into his new life and social station but keeps unintentionally botching it and making everything worse. John’s superior Mr. Colquhoun has tried to warn her but to no avail and now she’s lashed out because of the pettiness of a disgruntled woman from John’s past. Will these two be able to find their way back and can John discover who is trying to kill whom in time to prevent another death?
I like that everything isn’t smooth sailing for John and Julia. Okay so that sounds bad but given the obstacles they’ve faced and the people they’ve faced down, suddenly having their married life be easy peasy would seem to negate what they’ve struggled to gain and the real roadblocks in their way to marital bliss. As Mr. Colquhoun says, two people learning to live together is hard enough but the class difference and social gulf between John and Julia isn’t a divide easily overcome by mere love alone.
The mystery is engaging with several suspects and clues sprinkled along the way. The ultimate villain is one I considered but the resolution is neither too easy nor out of the blue. The surprise dished up is delightful and something that I can’t wait to see how it will affect the next book. John and Julia keep growing as characters and I’m glad there are maybe a few more books in store for them. B