cover image A Sinister Service

A Sinister Service

Alyssa Maxwell. Kensington, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4967-1745-0

Set in 1920, Maxwell’s enjoyable sixth a Lady and a Lady’s Maid mystery (after 2020’s A Silent Stabbing) takes Lady Phoebe Renshaw, her three siblings, and her maid, Eva Huntford, to Staffordshire, the hub of England’s thriving porcelain trade. Phoebe and her siblings are visiting the prestigious Crown Lily factory to commission a tea set for their grandparents’ anniversary when the company’s head designer, Ronald Mercer, is found dead in a grinder. The murder gains personal significance for the Renshaws with the arrest of Mercer’s son, who was at Eton with Phoebe’s brother, until the boy’s father forced him to withdraw and learn the pottery trade. Another suspect is Percy Bateman, Lily’s junior designer, who coveted the victim’s position. As part of the sleuthing effort, Eva becomes a part-time apprentice to Lily’s head of china painting, Moira Wickham, who resented Mercer’s refusal to let a woman design. Distinctive characters complement the well-crafted plot. Maxwell brings the era’s class and gender constraints to life in this intelligent historical. Agent: Evan Marshall, Evan Marshall Agency. (Feb.)