Chelsea Mancilla, Guest Writer
Next time you are in a reading mood, pick up “The Mitford Murders.” This book is the beginning of a series by the same title, written by Jessica Fellowes, co-creator of “Downton Abbey.” Told through the alternating viewpoint of Louisa Cannon and Guy Sullivan, it is a murder mystery set in the 1920s- a decade when young people were casting aside tradition and testing boundaries.
To my disappointment, there was not as much action as I thought there would be in this novel. The book has been one that I can comfortably pick up and put down while on my commute to work. I think my disappointment comes from the fact that nothing in the plot really surprised me. However, it has nothing to do with the quality of work. Fellowes is a superb author that uses her words to immerse you in this period drama.
My favorite part of this book was the subtle, yet recognizable historical fact implementation, which helps readers keep track of what time period it is throughout the story. For example, “… her son in-law was Secretary of State for the Colonies, Winston Churchill, of whom everybody said great things were destined.”
“The Mitford Murders” depicts the death of Florence Nightingale Shore. The goddaughter of her famous namesake and a former nurse is brutally murdered on a train. Her assailant is nowhere to be found and is merely known as “the man in a brown suit.” This work of historical fiction is based on the stories of the Mitford family. The main protagonist, Louisa Cannon, is a fictional character that is hired as the Mitford’s nursery maid and befriends her charge, Nancy Mitford.
Nancy, also fondly called “Koko” by her family, is intrigued by the murder of Ms. Shore. She is an imaginative teen held to strict expectations of 20th century aristocracy. Nancy is my favorite character because of her daring spirit. She convinces Louisa to be a chaperone at a dance, where she meets the handsome former officer, Roland Lucknor.
While reading a mystery, it is important to note why the protagonist is capable of solving the crime. The first step is recognizing how they were accessible to the crime and clues. In this case, Louisa and Nancy have an indirect connection to Ms. Shore. While Nancy’s father was fighting in Ypres, Ms. Shore was a nurse and she was able to report on Lord Redesdale’s wellbeing by writing letters to a mutual friend, Rosa Peal. Secondly, what makes the protagonist the right person to solve the crime? In this case, the trio, Louisa, Nancy and Guy, are all observant and determined people.
The story is told in alternating perspectives, switching between Louisa and a railway police officer named Guy Sullivan. Guy Sullivan holds importance in the story, providing a relevant time period role that can interact more directly with witnesses and suspects. Otherwise, the reader and other characters would be missing vital information regarding the case. As an officer, Guy was able to attend the inquest, where he was able to observe Ms. Shore’s friends and the witnesses. When Guy approaches a suspect at an art exhibition, Louisa is able to attend the event with Guy and makes an observation about the suspect.
Louisa is a responsible young woman and daughter of a washerwoman who longs to leave London, especially when she feels her safety is threatened by her uncle, Stephen Cannon. Louisa meets Guy, who later becomes the officer investigating the murder of Ms. Shore. When Guy appears to interview a friend of the victim, Louisa and Guy meet once again. The budding romance between Louisa and Guy entertains the reader while there is very little progress in solving the crime. The plot will keep the reader wondering who killed Ms. Shore.