Book review: The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes

Wednesday, September 25, 2019 Permalink

This is the third in the Mitford Murder mysteries and I’m probably enjoying each new release more than its predecessor/s. In my review of The Mitford Murders I mentioned that author, Jessica Fellowes wrote companion books for Downton Abbey so is obviously passionate about this era and knows her stuff. And in that book, as well as the second in the series, Bright Young Dead, the research she undertakes and the way she weaves facts and true events into fiction makes more interesting – and surprisingly educational – reading.

Book review: The Mitford Scandal by Jessica FellowesThe Mitford Scandal
by Jessica Fellowes
Series: The Mitford Murders #3
Published by Little Brown Book Group
on September 24th 2019
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 0751573930, 9780751573930
Pages: 384

The year is 1928, and after the death of a maid at a glamorous society party, fortune heir Bryan Guinness seizes life and proposes to eighteen-year-old Diana, most beautiful of the six Mitford sisters.

The maid's death is ruled an accident, and the newlyweds put it behind them to begin a whirlwind life zipping between London's Mayfair, chic Paris and romantic Venice. Accompanying Diana as her lady's maid is Louisa Cannon, as well as a coterie of friends, family and hangers on, from Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh.

When a second victim is found in Paris in 1930, Louisa begins to see links with the death of the maid two years previously. Now she must convince the Mitford sisters that a murderer could be within their midst . . . all while shadows darken across Europe, and within the heart of Diana Mitford herself.

I don’t read historical fiction, other than some books unfolding in multiple timeframes or timelines. For some reason however, I’m enjoying this series and happy to be entrenched in the 1920s and now 1930s.

The thing I found strangest when I read the second novel was that Fellowes had spaced the first and second books four years apart so it felt as if there was a gaping hole and I had no idea what had happened in that time. It also means though, while the books are linked, they’re easily able to be read as standalone novels.

Thankfully there’s only a two year gap between the last book and this one, though we do jump forward in time on a few occasions here… traversing four or five years.

Again Louisa’s a delight (becoming more so in each novel, given I wasn’t overly enamoured of/with her in the first of the series) and police officer Guy Sullivan is back again, now with CID at Knightsbridge Station.

Nancy, the focus of the first book appears here again, as does Pamela (who featured in the second). Diana is next in line… turning eighteen herself and soon to marry when the book opens in 1928.

When we’re reintroduced, Louisa hasn’t seen anyone from her old life for some time. She’s working as a maid at a party – at which another maid dies, which kinda sets off the series of events of the book – but she hides from the two Mitford sisters (Nancy and Diana) who are present. She’s led them all to believe she’s made her way to London to work as an ‘independent successful and modern woman’. And though she is modern and independent, she’s working a number of jobs to pay her rent.

Skip forward a little and she accepts a post with the newly married Diana. And… as I thought in the first book of the series, each novel focuses on a new Mitford sister.

Yet again, back in their employ Louisa has to walk the fine line between friendship and her servant-status; and the Mitford girls (women) continue to struggle with these boundaries as well.

I’m really enjoying this series and finding Fellowes manages to mix each novel up to give us something new in each outing. Louisa’s relationship with the Mitford Sisters has continued, but grows and changes just as society is slowly changing and the shadow of the First World War fades and Second looms.

I probably wasn’t as happy about the ‘whodunnit’ part as it was a bit left-field but the investigation itself and the many twists and turns kept me reading.

Again Fellowes has included Historical Notes for those of us too lazy to google stuff and / or with minimal knowledge of events of the time. As usual I was surprised to know how many of the ‘pivotal’ or grounding events of the novel are true – from the death of a maid at a party in the opening scene, to the inclusion of periphery characters such as Evelyn Waugh, to men being arrested for ‘lewd’ acts in public toilets, to Diana’s relationship with Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. (And I’d mentioned in my review of the opening book that I’d discovered then the Mitford Sisters were really quite famous, indeed… infamous in terms of their support of fascism and communism.)

This series offers readers a smidge of history amidst consistently interesting mysteries and I’m sure it will continue to be hugely popular with lovers of Downton Abbey, The Crown and the like.

The Mitford Scandal by Jessica Fellowes was published in Australia by Hachette and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 



Comments are closed.