Title: Murder at the Brightwell (Amory Ames 1)
Author: Ashley Weaver
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: 2014
England, 1932. World War I is over and England is enjoying prosperity and a new age. Amory Ames has been married to Milo for five years; although very charming and handsome, Milo shows little contentment at staying home with his wife. He prefers traveling around the continent with, as he states, “more money than he could ever spend.”
When Gil Trent, Amory’s friend and ex-fiancé asks for help, she accepts an invitation to Brightwell as a welcome change. Gil wants Amory to attend under the pretext that she is leaving her husband for him; a charade that Amory isn’t completely comfortable with. Gil is concerned because his beloved sister Emmeline is engaged to Rupert Howe, a notorious playboy and gambler. Gil hopes that if Emmeline sees how Amory is trying to leave a similar marriage, that she might reconsider the proposal. Fellow guests at the resort include the Rodgers, a paradoxical couple of a solemn solicitor and a vibrant platinum blonde; the Hamiltons, a nasty critical husband and a shy unassuming wife; and Lionel Blake, a rising star of the British stage.
When Milo unexpectedly returns from Monte Carlo prior to her departure, Amory is confused but chooses to help Gil anyway. The first evening at Brightwell is filled with dining and dancing and sly looks and whispered exchanges. Gil and Amory plan to meet Rupert and Emmeline for tea the next day, but when they arrive, they discover Emmeline perplexed as Rupert is nowhere to be found. Looking over the stone balcony, Amory is shocked to discover his body lying on the ground. Inspector Jones arrives and, contrary to what is suspected, rules that Rupert was murdered.
Amory quickly becomes embroiled in the investigation when Gil’s dislike of Rupert becomes known and he rises to the position of top suspect. It seems however that many of the guests had encounters with and dislikes of Rupert and the facts become muddied. To complicate matters even more, Milo shows up at the resort. Amory struggles with juggling between her friendship with Gil and her marriage to Milo. Who does she trust, and just as important, who does she love? As more accidents occur, Amory realizes that the culprit must be discovered quickly before she also becomes a victim.
What a completely delightful story!! Set in the posh elegance of polite society, Amory is a woman caught in a marriage and life that seems to have no purpose. Although obviously still in love with her husband, she feels as though she were ambling with no purpose. She is a smart and clever heroine but also quite staid and reserved. This contrast, coupled with carefully guarded emotions, creates a sense of mystery about her; however this mystery is only perceived by herself. Told from the first person perspective, Amory reveals her fears and loneliness but doesn’t ever wallow in self-pity.
Milo, however, is the true mystery character and the author does a fabulous job at making the reader question who he is and what is his purpose. The author does not reveal all and I look forward to his appearance in future stories.
I also loved the descriptions of this obviously elite resort; the details about the clothing, décor, and cuisine help to create the high-society feel of the setting and draws the reader into the story.
Who might like this book:
You know I love a good English mystery and this one definitely fits the bill. Amory is a very likeable character and the time between the World Wars provides fodder for a great story. Unlike others I have read set during this time period, there is no international intrigue but rather a focus on the lifestyles and recreations of the very wealthy.
I was thrilled when I started to write this review to discover that the book was published in 2014. A second book Death Wears a Mask is also out and a third book A Most Novel Revenge is set for publication in October of 2016.