Book: Murder on the Cornish Cliffs
Author: Verity Bright
Pub Day: December 1, 2023
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A festive invitation from an old family friend, the promise of gingerbread at the village inn, snowy walks on the Cornish coast with Gladstone the bulldog… But wait, is that a body on the beach?
Winter, 1923. It’s nearly Christmas and Lady Eleanor Swift has received a rather strange letter from an old friend of her uncle. Mr Godfrey Cunliffe has asked her to stay in Cornwall for the holidays – but only because he believes his gardener is trying to poison him! With not a moment to waste Eleanor hurries down to his picturesque manor house with her butler Clifford and handsome beau Detective Hugh Seldon. But they arrive too late to stop the crime…
Lying dead at the bottom of the steep cliffs, however, is not Mr Cunliffe, but the gardener himself. And his plans for restoring the gardens to their former glory are missing. Jerome St Clair has gone from suspect to victim. This certainly puts a twist in the tinsel!
As snow begins to fall, Eleanor quizzes the family. Mr Cunliffe’s alibi is as fragile as the glass baubles hanging from his towering Christmas tree. Eleanor quickly realises everyone from the handyman to the housekeeper is keeping secrets, and she’s convinced that Mr Cunliffe is still scared for his life.
When Gladstone the bulldog pulls a charred corner of the missing garden plans from a fireplace festooned with a gold-ribboned garland, Eleanor thinks the clue she needs is hiding out in the grounds. But when someone tries to run her over with the huge lawnmower, she knows she must wrap up the mystery fast before her Christmas is cancelled for good…
Murder on the Cornish Cliffs is a fun, twisty and absolutely gripping historical English cozy mystery, perfect for fans of T.E. Kinsey, Catherine Coles and Agatha Christie.
I was so excited to get my hands on another of the adventures of Lady Eleanor Swift! Y’all know how much I enjoy these books. Murder on the Cornish Cliffs, the sixteenth in the series, carries on in fine fashion.
December 1923. Ellie is getting ready to celebrate the Christmas holiday with the dearest people in her life: her fiancé, Detective Hugh Seldon; her butler, Clifford; and the lively ladies on her staff. But all that is turned on its ear when a letter arrives from a Mr. Godfrey Cunliffe, an old friend of Ellie’s Uncle Byron. He suspects his life is in danger, and he’s asking for assistance.
So Ellie and Clifford, along with the bulldog Gladstone and the ginger cat Tompkins, pack up the Rolls and head off to Cornwall, to Mr. Cunliffe’s ancestral home of Gwel an Mor. They arrive to find police cars in the drive and fear that they’re too late. But Mr. Cunliffe is unexpectedly alive and well. His gardener, Jerome St. Clair, has met an untimely end, and now Mr. Cunliffe fears St. Clair’s killer mistook the gardener for him. So he still fears for his life, but he’s less than pleased about having to resort to help from a woman. He isn’t much happier about help from a male servant, and sometimes it seems like he’d rather have no help at all.
There is so much to enjoy in this story! Gwel an Mor is a truly Gothic pile, complete with a layabout nephew and two dotty old aunts (who may or may not be as dotty as they seem). And there’s no shortage of skullduggery on the grounds. The gardens that St. Claire was hired to bring back to their former glory are really a hot mess, and what have the under-gardeners got up to in the bits that haven’t yet been cleared off? What about Mr. and Mrs. Liddicoat, the servants who came with the house? Cornwall has a past rich in smuggling. Are any or all of them up to old tricks in modern times, perhaps?
The nearby village offers loads of Cornish color, and it was delightful! I loved the Christmas traditions that the villagers shared with Ellie and Clifford, and how they jump right in and take part. The descriptions of the food were a lot of fun for me, too. Some sounded like things I might try, some not so much.
And I also loved the way Bright worked Hugh into the story. He can’t investigate a crime outside his jurisdiction, so they find a way to get around that. No, I’m not telling you how – read the book!
The lighthouse was another integral and interesting part of the story. Its history gives some insight into Cunliffe’s family, and the lighthouse keeper (Woon – just Woon) is able to share some useful details with Ellie and Clifford.
There’s no shortage of tight spots, either. Some, like Ellie driving the lumbering Rolls on narrow Cornish cliffside roads (I could picture Clifford clinging firmly to the “oh sh!t” handle above the window – would a Rolls have one of those, do you think?), are more comical than others, when I was truly concerned for our dynamic duo. But, as you probably figured, none of the tight spots are inescapable.
The murderer was not who I expected, and many things were not what they first appeared. Bright brings all the threads together in a most satisfactory conclusion, and now I’m left waiting eagerly for the next book in the series.
A Christmas setting, a house that’s a character in and of itself, witty banter between Eleanor and Clifford, twists and turns and fascinating characters – once again, Verity Bright has given us a charmer of a book! Eleanor Swift remains solidly on my list of favorite amateur sleuths.
Disclaimer: Thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
About the author:
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.