Book: Murder in an Irish Castle
Author: Verity Bright
Pub Day: November 28, 2022
Buy Link: Amazon: https://geni.us/B0BB76VJDHsocial
Irish whiskey, rolling green hills, a traditional Christmas feast and… a murder? Lady Swift will need the luck of the Irish to survive this holiday season!
Christmas, 1923. Lady Eleanor Swift has received a rather unexpected invitation to the village Christmas party in the tiny, rural hamlet of Derrydee in the west of Ireland. Eleanor is thrilled about exploring her ancestral roots at her late uncle’s estate and spending the festive season in a castle. Packing Gladstone the bulldog’s coziest Christmas jumper, they set off to the Emerald Isle with her butler Clifford in tow.
Arriving late at night, Eleanor and Clifford are shocked when they find a body sprawled in the snow on the winding country lane outside the estate. The local constable is immediately suspicious and all but accuses the pair of murder. This isn’t the warm Irish welcome Eleanor imagined!
Clifford is certain he recognises the poor fellow from the funeral of Eleanor’s uncle – but what was their connection? Undeterred by the villagers’ lack of gossip on the matter, Eleanor is determined to get justice for the victim. The man’s pockets are suspiciously empty of personal effects, but closer inspection reveals an old key hidden in the heel of his boot. Could this unlock more than one mystery for Eleanor?
But when a fire breaks out at the castle on Christmas Eve, an even bigger question looms: is someone out to ensure the family line dies with Lady Swift? And will Eleanor’s first Irish Christmas be her last?
An utterly addictive festive whodunnit set in Ireland, brimming with mystery, intrigue and wit. Sure to delight fans of T E Kinsey, Agatha Christie and Rhys Bowen.
If y’all have been hanging out here for a while, you know I have had nothing but good things to say about Verity Bright’s Lady Eleanor Swift. Murder in an Irish Castle is a charming continuation of the story.
Here we find Lady Eleanor and Clifford venturing to Ireland to get in touch with Ellie’s roots. Her inheritance included not only Henley Hall, but also another estate, Hennelly Towers in the west of Ireland, and the title of Baronetess Derry of Ross. Uncle Byron had never actually gone there, but had maintained the staff and sent funds for them to keep up the estate. When Ellie receives an invitation to celebrate Christmas with the small village of Derrydee, not far from this newly realized portion of her inheritance, she jumps at the chance.
The mystery begins before they even reach the castle when they find a man clinging to life in the middle of the road. They seek help at a nearby abbey, and the Mother Superior reluctantly takes them in and phones for assistance. Sadly, the man dies, and no one – the Mother Superior, the priest, the police, the doctor – seems particularly concerned about the man’s identity, nor do they seem to mourn his passing. Constable Doyle, in fact, seems almost to hold Lady Eleanor and Clifford responsible for the man’s death, since they’re the only folks around with a car and must have run him over.
There may be no love lost between the Irish and the English as a whole, but the villagers seem to be generally welcoming to Ellie. It probably helps that she’s a most unconventional noblewoman! Still, though, no one wants to talk about the dead man, and indeed, they almost seem afraid to do so. And more curious, the school headmistress who supposedly extended the holiday invitation vehemently denies having done so. Something isn’t right, and Ellie and Clifford start nosing around, placing themselves in danger in the process.
This story takes place entirely in the west of Ireland, so events unfold without the usual presence of DCI Hugh Seldon, Eleanor’s beau, and the ladies of Henley Hall. There are still plenty of characters to love, though! Murphy, the keeper of the local pub, his daughter Kathleen, Doctor Sullivan O’Sullivan, Headmistress Breen, and so many more. And let’s not forget Tompkins, the cat at Hennelly Towers – he and Gladstone the bulldog soon become fast friends, and I do love a story with a cat!
Clifford has always been most concerned for his mistress’s propriety and a stickler for doing things by the book. Here, though, we see him loosen up just a little more. I think Clifford is one of my favorite characters. He’s Ellie’s butler, sure. But he’s so much more than that to her. Differences in status aside, I think she sees him as a friend and an honorary uncle standing in her Uncle Byron’s stead. I think she is much more than an employer to him, too, and it’s fun seeing their relationship grow.
The setting is charming, if impoverished, and Bright does a good job of giving the reader a sense of place and time. I’m not a big student of history, but it seems that they’ve done their research. I really loved the descriptions of the food. I might not fix much of it myself, but I think I’d try making some farls.
Murder in an Irish Castle is a thoroughly enjoyable Christmas-themed cozy. There is action and suspense. There is humor and affection. There is plenty of Irish charm, and a satisfactory resolution when the killer is brought to justice. (I cheered when we finally learned what had kept the villagers quiet and that situation was resolved!) I missed seeing Hugh and Ellie together, but the descriptions of the Christmas celebrations in Derrydee were delightful just about made up for Hugh’s absence. I hope we’ll see a bit more progress on the relationship front for them in the next book!
It’s another five-star read from Verity Bright for me!
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from NetGalley and Bookouture. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
Verity Bright is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing partnership that has spanned a quarter of a century. Starting out writing high-end travel articles and books, they published everything from self-improvement to humour, before embarking on their first historical mystery. They are the authors of the fabulous Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery series, set in the 1920s.
Find them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BrightVerity.