Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time
Berkley, Mar 2009, $
A tea party is commencing at Humphrey House, but the owner of the place, train devotee Francis Humphreys fails to be with his guests. Relatives and friends become concerned because he is a punctual person. A knock on his door goes unanswered. Recently Francis has been forgetful as if he was in an early stage of senility. All talking at the party abruptly ends when a shot is heard. Everyone rushes to Francis’ room where they find him dead, a bullet to his head. They call the cops and Scotland Yard sends their top detective Inspector Witherspoon to investigate what looks like a suicide by a man losing his mind.
The Inspector is disgusted as he is stuck with as his assistant Inspector Niven’s’ nephew Lionel Gates; Witherspoon would rather have Constable Barnes whom he respects. Still they interview the guests and investigate motives; most inherit part of Francis’ estate. However opportunity remains elusive as every attendee had an alibi as all of them were in the drawing room together when the shot was heard. Witherspoon’s housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and the rest of the downstairs staff secretly investigate in hopes of finding clues to assist their kind employer and prevent a killer from murdering again.
Reading a Mrs. Jeffries Victorian whodunit is paraphrasing the Lays’ potato chip commercial you can’t read just one. The latest case is a fabulous locked room police procedural with all the suspects providing alibis for one another as they were together having tea. Witherspoon is as always solves the case, but is clueless that his housekeeping staff conducts an inquiry with the downstairs employed at Humphrey House. Fans will enjoy this fine historical mystery that showcases how the police conduct an official investigation and how the amateur sleuths perform their version.