Title: Murder at the Brightwell
Author: Ashley Weaver
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: October 2014
Length: 336 pages
Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.
Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim.
Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear.
***** Review *****
The synopsis lays out the scene for this book very well.
Amory, who five years prior ended her own engagement to Gil Trent, is now going off to a seaside holiday with him under the pretext of having left her own philandering husband, Milo. However, that has little affect on Emmeline, and Milo’s unexpected arrival leaves much unsaid and complicates things further.
Within the holidaying party are several new people whom Amory does not know. When accepting his invitation, she thought no further ahead than removing her wedding bands, and it seems that Gil and Emmeline Trent don’t quite travel in the same circles as they used to. This makes things much more difficult for Amory after Rupert’s murder and Gil’s arrest. How can she riddle out the killer with all new players on the stage?
Over the days, Amory develops slight relationships with each of the people in their party at the Brightwell Hotel. She slowly gleans little bits of information here and there, and enlists the aid of her husband in her sleuthing.
The marriage between Amory and Milo leaves much to be desired. Their marriage is quiet a farce. He is a popular face in the gossip columns, and quite renowned for his female conquests. He is very handsome, quite charming and has the gentile graces of the polite society into which he was born and raised, but it left me truly wondering why he ever married Amory, for she isn’t one who comes from money.
The set-up was characteristic of Agatha Christie: the main players arrive at a destination, the murder occurs, the MC is on the hunt, and all the characters remain on the premises. However, one thing that struck me was that the Trent party and fellow holidaying friends were not the only guests at the Brightwell, but there was no mention of the other guests besides noting that there were others present in the dining or sitting rooms.
The other thing that struck me about the time is how very realistic Weaver stuck to how people acted in public and private at the time. In fact, many of the oddities are revealed to Amory and readers during these moments of repast. It is 1932 England, and Weaver has portrayed that quite well. Can you remember a time when people retired after lunch, met to have tea or coffee in sitting rooms and polite courtesy was the epitome of society?
I enjoyed Amory’s interactions with all of those in the Trent holiday party, the inspector and her husband. She narrates in first person and leaves very little unsaid about the descriptions, mannerisms and actions of those in her party. Through her stream of conscious thoughts it is quite clear that she is a very astute woman with a rather clear head, unlike many women of the time.
Amory’s time at the Brightwell is tumultuous in the rapid changes in her relationships with both Milo and Gil as the murder investigation wears on and Amory uncovers more pieces of the puzzle. When Gil is arrested, she is steadfast in his innocence and leads her headlong into an investigation of her own…and dangerous waters.
I thought I had figured out who the killer was without any doubt, but Weaver truly surprised me. Murder at the Brightwell was a truly enjoyable read for me, and for once I had to forgo my “no eating and reading” rule. I kept it to a salad, so I could have it in my lap and flip pages with my other hand. 🙂
***** About the Author *****
ASHLEY WEAVER is the branch manager at Oberlin, the headquarters branch of the Allen Parish Libraries in Louisiana. Weaver has worked in libraries since she was 14; she was a page and then a clerk before obtaining her MLIS from Louisiana State University. She lives in Oakdale, Louisiana.