cover image Murder Most Malicious

Murder Most Malicious

Alyssa Maxwell. Kensington, $25 (298p) ISBN 978-1-61773-830-2

Set in England, Maxwell’s entertaining first in her Lady and Lady’s Maid series opens with an argument between Lady Phoebe Renshaw and Henry Leighton, Marquess of Allerton, on Dec. 25, 1918, at Foxwood Hall. The next day, Leighton goes missing, and evidence of his demise turns up in several Christmas packages the Renshaw ladies prepared as gifts for their servants. Lady Julia, Phoebe’s sister, along with Julia’s personal maid, Eva Huntford, become an unlikely but clever pair of sleuths, eliminating the houseful of guests as suspects and locating Leighton’s body. Ignoring Constable Miles Brannock’s warnings to leave the detecting to him and his fellow officers, Julia realizes that even Phoebe isn’t above suspicion. Both ladies are attracted to certain men involved in the mystery, but identifying the killer takes precedence over any romantic notions. Some of the characters and scenes are highly reminiscent of TV’s Downton Abbey, but Maxwell (Murder at Beechwood) makes Phoebe and Eva distinctive personalities in their own right. Agent: Evan Marshall, Evan Marshall Agency. (Jan.)