Historical Mysteries | Fiction Reviews

Fellowes, Jessica. The Mitford Murders. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9781250170781. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250170804. M

DEBUT In her first novel, the author of five companion books to the PBS series Downton Abbey brings readers a classic mystery based on a 1920s unsolved murder in England. The plucky heroine, Louisa ­Cannon, flees an abusive uncle in London to take a job as a nursery maid in the country for the Mitford family. Sixteen-year-old Nancy Mitford (the future novelist and one of the famous Mitford sisters) develops a keen interest in the murder of Florence Nightingale Shore, a retired wartime nurse, on a train. Louisa and railway police officer Guy Sullivan follow the leads with Nancy’s help. There are plenty of surprises and the side plot involving Louisa’s uncle rounds out the story. The secondary characters are well developed; you can almost see Nanny Blor bustling around the nursery. Glimpses of post–World War I England, the lives of both the poor and the rich, and the workings of the eccentric Mitfords add to the atmosphere. VERDICT Fans of Agatha Christie or Jacqueline Winspear’s “Maisie Dobbs” series will savor this take on the locked-room mystery. [See Prepub Alert, 7/3/17.]—Terry Lucas, Shelter Island P.L., NY

Rhys, Rachel. Dangerous Crossing. Atria. Jan. 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781501162725. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501162749. F

Join Lily Shepherd as she sets sail from England to Australia on the brink of World War II in 1939. Part of a program offering free passage for people who will be servants in the wealthy homes of Sydney, she is onboard swept up in the romantic atmosphere of the balls, dinners and cocktails with people she would never have met under normal circumstances. Lily is a close observer of the strong personalities of her fellow passengers, including fascist George, Jewish refugee Maria, the friendly but enigmatic Edward and Helena Fletcher, and the wealthy but troubled Max and Eliza Shepherd, who keep drifting down from first class. A mystery is set up in the first chapter as police lead a prisoner wearing a green suit and fox stole off the boat in Sydney. The next chapter sees Lily boarding the boat at the beginning of the journey. VERDICT Making her historical fiction debut, Rhys, who also writes psychological thrillers as Tammy Cohen, offers plenty of glamorous atmosphere, period detail, and engaging ports of call along the way to please both historical fiction readers and mystery lovers.—Cheryl Bryan, Orleans, MA

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