I am so pleased to see Regency era mysteries becoming more and more popular. I love them. Top on my list are the twelve novels in the Being a Jane Austen Mystery series by Stephanie Barron and the fabulous Julian Kestral mysteries by Kate Ross. There is nothing as satisfying to me as sleuthing through a death at a country manor house or with the Ton in London where debutantes, dandies and dowager duchesses’ dwell. Wow. That was a long string of words beginning with D, wasn’t it? It might be because DEATH is on my mind prompted by the new book, Death Comes to London, the second novel in the Kurland St. Mary historical mystery series by Catherine Lloyd just released by Kensington Books.
Catherine Lloyd made her debut in 2013 with Death Comes to the Village (Kurland St. Mary Mystery #1) receiving high praise:
- “Lloyd’s delightful debut…Readers will hope that death returns soon to Kurland St. Mary.” – Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
- “A skillfully crafted mystery that combines a wounded war hero, an inquisitive rector’s daughter and a quaint peaceful village with some sinister secrets…a compelling picture of a young woman trying to find the courage to stand up for herself.” – RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars, TOP PICK!
- “A Regency Rear Window whose chair-bound hero and the woman who civilizes him generate sparks worthy of Darcy and Elizabeth. – Kirkus Reviews
I was intrigued—especially since Lloyd’s heroine, Miss Lucy Harrington and her childhood friend Major Robert Kurland, are amateur sleuths who work as team in an era when unmarried ladies were not allowed to be unchaperoned and gentlemen were very cognizant of untoward behavior that might ruin a ladies reputation. How did they pull this off?
While the first novel in the series is on my TBR pile, I might have to move up number two because the victim in Death Comes to London is an officious dowager, Countess of Broughton, a Lady Catherine de Borough doppelganger—and what true Janeite would not like to see that pompous busy-body bumped off?
I am happy to share this preview and excerpt of Death Comes to London with you today in hopes that, like me, you love the Regency era and a good cozy mystery.
A season in London promises a welcome change of pace for two friends from the village of Kurland St. Mary—until murder makes a debut…
With the reluctant blessings of their father, the rector of Kurland St. Mary, Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna leave home for a social season in London. At the same time, Lucy’s special friend Major Robert Kurland is summoned to the city to accept a baronetcy for his wartime heroism.
Amidst the dizzying whirl of balls and formal dinners, the focus shifts from mixing and matchmaking to murder when the dowager Countess of Broughton, the mother of an old army friend of Robert, drops dead. When it’s revealed she’s been poisoned, Robert’s former betrothed, Miss Chingford, is accused, and she in turn points a finger at Anna. To protect her sister, Lucy enlists Robert’s aid in drawing out the true culprit.
But with suspects ranging from resentful rivals and embittered family members to the toast of the ton, it will take all their sleuthing skills to unmask the poisoner before more trouble is stirred up…
Robert handed his hat to the butler at the Hathaways residence and slowly climbed the stairs to the drawing room on the first floor. It wasn’t the correct time of day to pay a call, but he assumed the Harringtons and the Hathaways would be too keen to hear his news to worry about such social niceties.
“Major Kurland, ma’am.”
As he’d expected, they were all there, clustered around one of the scandal sheets that proliferated in the city streets. He was always amazed at how quickly the printers managed to discover and distribute the latest gossip about the upper classes. Miss Harrington turned to him and put down the sheet she’d been reading aloud from.
“Good morning Major Kurland. How are the Broughtons bearing up on this sad day?”
He took the chair opposite her and surreptitiously stretched out his left leg to the warmth of the fire. His muscles were aching on such a damp morning and every step was a jarring agony.
“I believe they are still rather shocked. And just to make matters worse. Broughton was taken ill last night and the family physician was called to the house.”
“Oh dear,” Anna said. “Is he all right?”
“The doctor was still with him when I left, but I believe he was on the mend.” He hesitated. “The Countess of Broughton asked me if I’d stay at the house while Broughton was ill. I could hardly say no.”
“Of course you couldn’t. She will need your support.” Miss Harrington took off her spectacles and held up the long sheet of paper. “Have you seen what the scandal sheets are saying?”
“No, I haven’t, why?”
“They are suggesting that Miss Chingford deliberately enraged the dowager countess to cause her death and that she laughed afterward and,” she consulted the sheet. “Danced the night away without a care practically on the dowager’s grave.”
Robert snorted. “If anything killed that woman, it was her own spite and venom.”
“Miss Chingford will be mortified to have her name associated with such a terrible tragedy.”
“I doubt it will bother her in the slightest.”
“Then you don’t understand how precious a woman’s reputation is in this very judgmental world.”
“Are you defending Miss Chingford, Miss Harrington?”
“I suppose I am.” She hesitated. “While you were dealing with the Broughtons last night, I spoke to the physician who confirmed the dowagers death.”
“He said that it seemed odd to him that the dowager had died like that.”
“Of a heart attack?”
She frowned. “No one mentioned the dowager had a weak heart.”
“Broughton told me she was not in the best of health, that’s probably what he meant. Miss Harrington, are you trying to make a scandal out of nothing?”
“Of course not, Major!” She hesitated. “Although it does seem unfair that Miss Chingford might have to bear the stigma of causing another’s death through no fault of her own. Lady Bentley might be considered equally to blame.”
“Miss Chingford has a family to protect her, and this ‘scandal’ will be forgotten as soon as someone else in society does something untoward—and you can guarantee they will.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Miss Harrington sighed. “Are the Broughton family receiving visitors? Mayhap you could take us back with you to offer our condolences.”
“I suspect Broughton is still too unwell to receive anyone, but I will pass on your regards and your request.” He rose to his feet and leaned hard on his cane to regain his rocky balance. “I’ll call when I have more news on the patient.”
Miss Harrington stood too. “I’ll come down the stairs with you, Major, if I may. I have to speak to the butler.”
She followed him out, slowing her pace to allow him time to get down the stairs. In the hallway he paused to pick up his hat from the table and turned to find her still studying him.
“How is your leg bearing up?”
He scowled at her. “It’s perfectly fine. The cold air just makes it a little stiff in the mornings.”
She nodded. “Ask Foley to rub some warm oil into your skin every night. It will help relieve the pain.”
“As if I’d let Foley anywhere near my leg.” he snapped. “I’m perfectly fine, Miss Harrington, and no longer trapped in my bed where you can bully me.”
She folded her hands and looked at him. “Have you ever noticed, that you become far more difficult whenever you are in pain? I have, and that is the only reason why I am willing to forgive your offensive tone.”
He rammed his hat on his head and saluted her. “Good day, Miss Harrington.”
Turning to the door he made his halting way across the marbled hall.
Her voice followed him. “If you don’t want Foley massaging your leg, ask him for a hot cloth to place over your thigh.”
“Damned interfering woman,” Robert muttered as he barely managed the steps outside without falling. The fact that a hot compress on his leg sounded vastly appealing simply made matters worse. She had no right to dictate to him.
His temper remained sour on his journey back to Broughton House and was not improved when he was immediately asked to meet the countess in her morning parlor. All he wanted was a hot bath and a shot of brandy to help withstand the pulsing agony in his thigh. He was due at Carlton House later that day so he couldn’t even put himself to bed. He avoided taking laudanum to dull the pain. Sometimes it was hard to endure the agony without it.
The countess was alone in the small morning room. The velvet curtains remained shut leaving the room in half-darkness. As his hostess had also chosen to don a black gown it was difficult to see her clearly. Robert bowed and remained standing in front of her chair.
“Lady Broughton, how may I help you?” He hesitated. “If you wish me to leave your house and return to my hotel in this time of sorrow, I will depart immediately.”
“Oh no, please don’t go.” The countess brought out her handkerchief and inwardly Robert tensed. Dealing with crying females was one of his least favorite occupations.
“With Broughton sick, and Oliver disappeared, you are the only man I can turn to.”
“Oliver had disappeared?”
“Well, I have no notion where he is, and his bed wasn’t slept in last night.”
“Does he even know that his grandmother died? I seem to remember him leaving the ball before anything occurred. Perhaps he is staying at an acquaintances house and has no idea what is going on.” He paused. “Do you wish me to inquire?”
“That’s very kind of you, but Oliver isn’t my main concern.”
“Then, how may I help you?”
“The stupid new physician Broughton insisted should replace our old one, declares that Broughton might have been poisoned!”
“Yes, I know it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? But he is determined to speak to you about it.”
“The sooner the better, he said. Although what there is to remember, or forget about what Broughton was doing last night when one was forced to watch a horrible old woman choke to death on her own venom is hardly worth noting.”
Catherine Lloyd grew up in London, England in the middle of a large family of girls. She quickly decided her imagination was a wonderful thing and was often in trouble for making stuff up. She finally worked out she could make a career out of this when she moved to the USA with her husband and four children and began writing fiction. With a background in historical research and a love of old-fashioned mysteries, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to wonder what a young Regency Miss Marple might be like, and how she would deal with a far from pleasant hero of the Napoleonic wars.
Death Comes to London: Kurland St. Mary Mystery #2), by Catherine Lloyd
Kensington Books (2014)
Trade paperback & eBook (272) pages
Cover image courtesy of Kensington Books © 2014; excerpt text Catherine Lloyd ©2014, Austenprose.com