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I received this book for free from a book tour. This review is voluntary. My opinion is not influenced in any way.Death at the Emerald by R.J. Koreto
Series: A Lady Frances Ffolkes Mystery #3
Published by Crooked Lane Books on November 7, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Source: a book tour
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One-named stunning actress Helen mysteriously vanished 30 years ago. An elderly family friend is unable to bear not knowing any longer and commissions Lady Frances Ffolkes to track her down. Taking on the role of Lady Sherlock, with her loyal maid Mallow drafted as her Watson, Frances finds herself immersed in the glamorous world of Edwardian theater and London’s latest craze—motion pictures.
As Frances and Mallow make their way through the theaters, they meet colorful figures such as George Bernard Shaw and King Edward II. Tracking the theaters seems like a dead end. That is until one of Helen’s old suitors is suddenly murdered. With the stakes raised, Frances and Mallow work quickly to uncover a box of subtle clues to Helen’s whereabouts. But someone unexpected wants that box just as badly and is willing to kill to keep it shut.
The stage is set for murder and Frances and Mallow are determined to unravel the decades-old conspiracy in Death at the Emerald, R. J. Koreto’s third installment in the captivating Lady Frances Ffolkes mysteries.
Lady Frances and Mallow: Friends and Colleagues
My sleuth, Lady Frances Ffolkes, employs a maid, probably the most conventional thing she does. And exploring their relationship is the most fun I have in writing my mysteries!
Frances, of course, is a very non-traditional heroine in turn-of-the-century England. Although times were changing, some conventions were set in stone: well-born women didn’t work and could have no occupation except perhaps charitable work. They lived at home until they found a suitable husband—or one was selected for them.
But Lady Frances turns all those conventions on their heads: she lives on her own, campaigns for women’s suffrage, chooses her own romantic partners (even going outside of her class) and sets herself up as a detective, forcing Scotland Yard inspectors into reluctant partnerships.
Still, she does have a personal maid, June Mallow. A “lady’s maid” was a high-ranking servant in these times. Unlike lower-ranked maids, she was addressed by her last name by her mistress, and other servants had to call her “Miss.” She did not wear a uniform, but her own simple dress.
A lady’s maid was necessary for a well-born woman. Dresses, especially for formal occasions, were complex and needed an extra pair of hands. And the hair. Short hair didn’t come into fashion until the 1920s, so women like Frances depended on maids to put up their hair in fashionable and efficient styles.
It’s a wonderful relationship to portray: they live with each other and Mallow helps Frances dress in the morning and undress at night. It’s very intimate. And yet, there’s a wide gulf of class. In some ways, they are like sisters. Indeed, Frances once says Mallow “is as close as family.” But because they are employer-employee, Frances cannot bring herself to discuss her romantic life with her maid. Which doesn’t mean that Mallow doesn’t know: “She was certain of one thing: Lord Gareth had kissed her ladyship that night. And from the look on her face, he had done a proper job of it.”
In her way, Mallow can be as unconventional as her mistress. When Frances has to investigate a crime in a rough tavern, Mallow insists on going for protection—and arms herself with a rolling pin.
It’s a relationship that has no modern equivalent, and I look forward to developing it in future stories. As Frances’ sister-in-law, Mary said, “They’re the most delightful maid-mistress pair in London.”
Death at the Emerald by R.J. Koreto is the third book in the Lady Frances Ffolkes historical mystery series. This is the first book I’ve read in the series, but as soon as I read the description, I knew I wanted to read it. I loved Downton Abbey, and this book was very reminiscent of that. I absolutely loved the characters and settings within the story. The mystery was so intriguing and kept me turning page after page. From the first page, I found myself wrapped up in the story and transported to Lady Frances’s time, and it was utterly delightful. I am so thrilled that I can read the earlier books in the series and not have to wait long for my next visit with Lady Frances.