From Goodreads: “Phyllida Bright, housekeeper for Agatha Christie, must uncover a killer among a throng of crime writers.
In England’s stately manor houses, murder is not generally a topic for polite conversation. Mallowan Hall, home to Agatha Christie and her husband, Max, is the exception. And housekeeper Phyllida Bright delights in discussing gory plot details with her friend and employer . . .
The neighboring village of Listleigh has also become a hub of grisly goings-on, thanks to a Murder Fête organized to benefit a local orphanage. Members of The Detection Club—a group of celebrated authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha herself—will congregate for charitable events, including a writing contest for aspiring authors. The winner gets an international publishing contract, and entrants have gathered for a cocktail party—managed by the inimitable Phyllida—when murder strikes too close even for her comfort.”
Sometimes when I’m searching NetGalley for eArcs, I get lucky with my usual searches. I had either searched “Agatha” or “Cambridge” when this book came up. I’m so glad it did. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy from NetGalley, Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.
A Trace of Poison (Amazon) is actually the second book in a series, but I didn’t realize that going in. However, you do not need to read the first book, Murder at Mallowan Hall (Amazon), to understand everything (although I did go back and read it after finishing this and thoroughly enjoyed it.) There’s mention of Phyllida previously solving a case, but nothing that makes you feel like you missed out by not reading the first book in the series.
Instead of just writing an Agatha Christie-type mystery, Colleen Cambridge has put Agatha in a murder mystery as a character. This historical cozy mystery has Christie’s housemaid, Phyllida, solving a murder that happens at a mystery writers weekend gathering called The Detection Club. It really was a club, and in real life and in this mystery, the writers help each other with their stories. Real-life authors Dorothy L. Sayers and G.K. Chesterton are just some of the familiar writers written into the story.
There’s a Murder Fete, where money is being raised for an orphanage, when the murder occurs. Agatha asks Phyllida to help investigate the murder, and she’s got her work cut out for her. After all, all the suspects are mystery writers, who are constantly devising ways of murdering people on the page. Phyllida is bright and clever, using her “little gray cells” the way Poirot does. She does come off a bit as unlikeable because she’s so exacting, but that’s what you need in this type of mystery.
The pacing of the story is good. I never felt bored, the narrative moved along nicely. There are many references to Christie’s and the other authors’ works, which was lovely. There are clues and red herrings and even another murder along the way. One of the most satisfying things is that Phyllida actually figures out the murderer with her wits, instead of just stumbling upon the murderer in action.
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