Verity Bright’s latest book is a ray of sunshine in these oh so uncertain times. Being plunged headlong into a lavish Christmas at Lady Eleanor’s Henley Hall you can picture the huge Christmas tree with its flickering candles and Gladstone the bulldog grabbing the ornaments and burying them under the tree with lady Eleanor scrabbling on the floor in hot pursuit.
Lady Eleanor is giving her first Christmas eve lunch to all the villagers following a tradition started by her late uncle who left her the Hall and all it entailed in his will. Her uncle amongst other things was a philanthropist who believed charity should start at home and Lady Eleanor is keen to follow in his footsteps even though, due to her unusual upbringing, she is more at home climbing mountains or facing natural dangers then taking part in tea parties or any social occasions. She also seems, since coming to the Hall, to have an unfortunate habit of stumbling across dead bodies. But what could happen here in her own backyard?
Well actually quite a lot. Part of the festivities for the villagers is a fun run in the grounds for the men and even though it is now snowing hard they all set off watched by amongst others Lady Eleanor (doing her duty) and Clifford her butler and right-hand man. When the last runner reaches them panting and gasping, he collapses but not just with exhaustion.
From then on his death? or murder? sets off a fascinating chain of events including, in Clifford the butler, the haunting memory of what he is now sure was a similar death much closer to home.
There is always so much more to the Verity Bright books than the murders. The description of English village life (much of which still continues to this day), of the changing seasons, and the depth and understanding of the language makes this exile sure that the books could only be written by a British couple.
And for me the jewel in the crown. A method of murder I have never come across before. I just had to look it up and as usual I am in awe of the amount of research they put into each book whether it’s the food (oh how sumptuous) or the way of life of villages at the time, such as when one realizes that the Christmas Eve lunch at the hall is the best meal by far many of the villagers will have all year and the fact that the next morning, before going to another festive meal this time at Langham Manor, Lady Eleanor is at her village hall helping the ladies of the W.I. do up parcels for the less fortunate in the village. This must resonate with many of us doing the same sort of thing in these troubled times.
All in all I think this is their best book yet, and well worth 5 stars. A wonderful absorbing story and still many loose ends to look forward to. For me especially, has Lady Eleanor finally decided between Lancelot and D.C.I. Sheldon? What really happened to her uncle and parents and finally how on earth does she stay slim and sober with all she eats and imbibes? Not sour grapes with Christmas coming up I really want to know!!