Monday, January 11, 2016

Mystery Review: Murder Most Malicious

Another Great Escapes Cozy Mystery Tour Review--read to the bottom for a Rafflecopter drawing!

Title: Murder Most Malicious  (A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery Book 1)
New Series
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Kensington (December 29, 2015)
ISBN-13: 978-1617738302

Publisher's Synopsis:

In post–World War I England, Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, step outside of their social roles and put their lives at risk to apprehend a vicious killer…

December 1918: As a difficult year draws to a close, there is much to celebrate for nineteen-year-old Phoebe Renshaw and her three siblings at their beloved family estate of Foxwood Hall. The dreadful war is finally over; eldest daughter Julia’s engagement to their houseguest, the Marquis of Allerton, appears imminent; and all have gathered to enjoy peace on earth, good will toward men.

But the peace of Foxwood Hall is shattered on the morning of Boxing Day, when the Marquis goes missing. Not entirely missing, however, as macabre evidence of foul play turns up in gift boxes given to lady’s maid Eva Huntford and a handful of others. Having overheard her sister and the Marquis in a heated exchange the night before, Lady Phoebe takes a personal interest in solving the mystery.

As the local constable suspects a footman at Foxwood Hall, Phoebe and Eva follow the clues to a different conclusion. But both young women will need to think outside the box to wrap up this case—before a cornered killer lashes out with ill will toward them…

My Review: 

Ms. Maxwell hit on one of my favorite historical periods for her new series, and did a creditable job with the time and the story. In part because the whole story takes place in the manor house of Foxwood Hall, I had somewhat less of a sense of the period than with some stories, but life in the house matched pretty well with what I know of the period (Downton Abbey, anyone?). The story itself is also well constructed, with a number of highly plausible suspects, all keeping their secrets. I developed some suspicions of the murderer before the end, but did not become convinced until the denouement.

I was a little confused at first by POV switches between Phoebe and her maid, Eva, but that was largely due to the PDF version I was reading, where visual markers for the switches were lost. The dual POV was handled well and properly, without undue switching.

It took me a while to be grabbed by the story and the characters, and for some reason I had trouble sorting them out at first--maybe too many distractions during the holidays?--but well before the end of the book I was plowing along at top speed, and felt fully engaged with Pheobe and Eva. Other characters were less developed and of less interest to me. In particular, I did have some trouble with the relationship between Phoebe and her sister Julia, as the latter is cold and distant. Unlike Phoebe, we never see her any other way, so the younger sister's feelings for her older sibling seem a bit unlikely. There are reminders that Julia wasn't always like this, though evidently a certain rivalry has persisted for many years. There is definitely more there for the author to explore, as well as with the love interest.


If you are a fan of the period, then this book is well worth your time. If you aren't wild about 1920s England, this may not be the book to change your mind about it. If you just like a well-constructed puzzle, give it a go! I am very likely to read the next book in the series when it appears.

About The Author

Alyssa Maxwell has worked in publishing as an assistant editor and a ghost writer, but knew from an early age that being a novelist was what she wanted most. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre. She lives in South Florida in the current year, but confesses to spending most of her time in the Victorian, Edwardian, and post WWI eras. In addition to fantasizing about wearing Worth gowns while strolling manor house gardens, she loves to watch BBC and other period productions and sip tea in the afternoons.
Author Links
Webpage –
Twitter – @Alyssa__Maxwell
Purchase Links
Amazon –
Goodreads –
B&N –
IndieBound –

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  1. Congrats, Alyssa! Sounds like good fun.

  2. Thanks, Nick, and thank you, Rebecca, aka Ninja Librarian, for joining my Great Escape Tour. I appreciate your taking the time to read and review my book!

  3. Murder Most Malicious sounds like a good read.

    Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?

    1. I'm not sure if you mean this question for me or for Alyssa, but since I also write, I'll answer.

      I have never suffered from writer's block, and might agree with those who argue it doesn't exist (though things like depression, which can prevent writing, obviously do). Anytime I can't write, it's either because other life issues have taken precedence--a decision I must make or have made for me--or because it's hard and I'm lazy. There are times when a story drags, or when I don't know where to go next. Typically, I either push on through (keep writing even if it's garbage and will have to be deleted), do some planning (because if I don't know where I'm going, my writing is apt to be aimless), or work on something else for a while.

      Editing block, now...that I get ;)

  4. I like the interaction between the lady and her maid. It reminds me of Anna and Lady Mary on Downton Abbey. And it's an interesting time period. A mystery set in a manor house is always a fun puzzle to unravel.

    1. It's a wonderful period, and yes, I do think that fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy it!

  5. It sounds like a lot of fun and a good start to the series


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