From Goodreads: “Christmas, 1924. Lady Eleanor Swift has received a rather unexpected invitation to the village Christmas party in the tiny, rural hamlet of Derrydee in the west of Ireland. Eleanor is thrilled about exploring her ancestral roots at her late uncle’s estate and spending the festive season in a castle. Packing Gladstone the bulldog’s coziest Christmas jumper, they set off to the Emerald Isle with her butler Clifford in tow.
Arriving late at night, Eleanor and Clifford are shocked when they find a body sprawled in the snow on the winding country lane outside the estate. The local constable is immediately suspicious and all but accuses the pair of murder. This isn’t the warm Irish welcome Eleanor imagined!
Clifford is certain he recognises the poor fellow from the funeral of Eleanor’s uncle – but what was their connection? Undeterred by the villagers’ lack of gossip on the matter, Eleanor is determined to get justice for the victim. The man’s pockets are suspiciously empty of personal effects, but closer inspection reveals an old key hidden in the heel of his boot. Could this unlock more than one mystery for Eleanor?
But when a fire breaks out at the castle on Christmas Eve, an even bigger question looms: is someone out to ensure the family line dies with Lady Swift? And will Eleanor’s first Irish Christmas be her last?”
Murder in an Irish Castle (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) is my first Eleanor Swift Mystery. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of the book from NetGalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
For a cozy mystery, there’s surprising depth in the writing. I’m guessing that’s because Verity Bright has lived with these characters for 12 books. But don’t be deterred by the fact that this book is one in a series. Even if you haven’t read the other books in the Eleanor Swift series, you’ll get by just fine in this book. There was only one time when I did a “HUH?” and that was about half-way through the book when Eleanor mentions her beau, Hugh, who isn’t in this story. So if you’re looking for the slow burn of a romance in your cozy mystery, this isn’t it.
The castle Eleanor inherits is in a quaint little town in the Irish countryside. It’s a world completely different than today’s: using peat for firewood, still using cart and wagon, the largely agrarian society is suspicious of Eleanor and her butler, Clifford, and no one takes kindly to strangers sticking their nose into things. Trying to get answers from the townspeople is difficult, but that doesn’t stop Eleanor.
The manner of death of the stranger in the road is an unusual one, and one that leaves the reader wondering how it could have happened. Then there’s the house fire on the castle estate which takes the life of the caretaker which adds to the mystery. The fact that all the house help has been scared away by ghosts, leaving Eleanor and Clifford alone in the castle, adds to the mystery even more.
The culprit isn’t one you’d expect, simply because you’re not introduced to them until later in the story. The mystery itself was wrapped up about 80% into the book, but the murderer needed to be apprehended, and Eleanor needed to experience more of the Christmas holiday in Ireland before returning to England.
For Eleanor Swift fans, have no fear, Gladstone the bulldog makes the trip and provides comic relief. I’m not much of a dog person but the pup’s behavior was certainly endearing.
I enjoyed reading about the traditional Irish Christmas traditions as my husband is Irish. I can’t say I’ll be serving some of the meals described, but I’ll certainly be telling Dave and the kids about it. 🙂
I’m up for another Eleanor Swift mystery, so I’ll be perusing the back catalog (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) and looking forward to lucky #13 in the series, Death on Deck (Amazon US) (Amazon UK), which brings Eleanor to the United States. I am very much looking forward to more Eleanor.
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