cover image A Most Agreeable Murder

A Most Agreeable Murder

Julia Seales. Random House, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-44998-1

Screenwriter Seales’s exceptional debut focuses on the Steele family of Swampshire, England, where women strictly adhere to a multiple-volume guide that offers rules including “Ladies must not be annoying or persistent.” It’s the early 19th century, and the Steeles have three daughters, the eldest of whom, 25-year-old Beatrice, harbors a frightful secret: she loves to solve crimes. None of the daughters can inherit the family’s estate—it can only go to a man—and Mr. Steele’s penchant for practical jokes has led his vile cousin, Martin Grub, to declare him insane, paving the way for Grub to take over the property. The family’s only hope rests on one of the daughters receiving a marriage proposal from a wealthy bachelor they meet at the annual Stabmort Park ball. After one of those bachelors dies during the festivities, Beatrice teams up with private detective Vivek Drake to solve the crime. The intricate plot races along at a sprightly pace, and Seales delights with her sharp humor and accomplished sense of narrative control. Jane Austen fans will be enthralled. Agent: Rachel Kim, 3 Arts Entertainment. (June)