This is the final book in the Manor House series, following “Wedding Rows.” The action begins about 3 weeks after the conclusion of the previous novel and about 3 days into the Allied Invasion at Normandy in 1944.
Earl Monroe is gone – flying bomber runs in the Allied Invasion. The knickers are gone – stolen from the clothesline. And Martin is just plain gone – disappeared, gone. Then there’s the life that has gone out of the body of Clyde Morgan, who has just been found in the rubble of the burned out munitions factory.
As far as the murder plotline goes, it is actually quite sophisticated for a cozy genre mystery. Clyde Morgan, the local used goods seller, has apparently committed suicide – the gun is in his own hand. But it is in his right hand, and the man is left-handed. Not to mention, the man lost his right eye earlier in the war and wears a patch. So a shot to the right temple by the right hand of a right-eye blinded man is not exactly the best evidence of suicide, no matter what PC Dalrymple says.
So, as in each of the prior books, Lady Elizabeth takes it upon herself to investigate and expose a murderer. And, as in each of the prior books, she fails to tell anyone in her household where she is specifically headed, even though she is forever angry at Violet and Martin for doing the same. And, as in each of the prior books, she gets violently surprised by the murderer and is inches from death when the rescue comes.
In many respects, it is good that this is the last volume in the series. While the author has progressed Lady Elizabeth’s character emotionally, she has not progressed her character intellectually. Kingsbury has not allowed Lady Elizabeth to learn from her mistakes and that can be the death of a reader’s sympathy for a protagonist.
However, Kingsbury’s ability to write emotional scenes, via dialogue and internal monologue, is one of the best I have encountered in my many years of reading fiction. She expresses confusion, enlightenment, elation and sorrow in a manner that touches the soul and elicits those same reactions in the reader.
And, it is with this skill in writing emotional context, that Kingsbury brings us to the point that we have expected for the last eight novels. Major Earl Monroe does not return from a bombing run unscathed. This situation, in turn, drives the novel to its conclusion. And the ending that we get is one that is well earned and well delivered.
Cover Art from Goodreads