Friday, November 12, 2021

Housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries and her team solve another crime in Emily Brightwell's holiday-themed Victorian mystery

In Victorian London, Inspector Gerald Witherspoon of the Metropolitan Police Force has a reputation to uphold as a crackerjack crime-solver. But there’s a secret: he has help, and he’s unaware of it. Whenever he gets a new homicide case, his intrepid housekeeper, Mrs. Jeffries, calls meetings with her fellow servants and supportive neighbors, and they put their heads together. After Witherspoon comes home each evening, he relaxes over a glass of sherry with Mrs. Jeffries, telling her about the investigation, and she takes it from there. Even Constable Barnes, Witherspoon’s partner, is in on the ruse, which adds to the amusement.

This is the 40th book in Brightwell’s series, so their system clearly works well. The murders tend to happen around Christmastime, potentially mucking up holiday plans, so the pressure is on for a speedy resolution.

In this volume, the victim is Mrs. Harriet Andover, strangled in her home’s locked conservatory with a dressing gown sash. Harriet was an astute businesswoman who shored up her husband Jacob’s failing fortunes with her personal wealth, and none of her family or friends seem upset at her death. Inheritance swiftly rises to the top as the motive. “They are dreadful snobs, Constable, but like so many of that class, they’ve no money,” one character explains. Each suspect is hiding something, and as alibis are provided and tested, the story pokes fun at their ridiculous behavior. Harriet’s stepson Percy, for instance, is a real piece of work.

Mrs. Jeffries’s team is a motley bunch with different connections and talents. There are many clues of varying importance, and figuring out how they all come together makes for an enjoyable ride. The late Harriet was a sensible woman, respected by her servants; the one remaining mystery is why she’d married into such an unpleasant family.

Mrs. Jeffries and the Midwinter Murders will be published by Berkley on November 16th; I reviewed it for November's Historical Novels Review from a NetGalley copy.

For anyone worried about diving into a series in the middle (or at the end, in this case), let me allay your concerns; I had no trouble starting with this book. The series premise is neatly summarized.  This also makes me wonder about lengthy historical mystery series and if any others extend past 40 books. This one began with The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries back in 1993, and it's stayed with Berkley as the publisher the whole time, which is notable in itself. 


  1. The series is new to me. Both settings and characters remind me a bit of the Lady Eleanor series. Thank you for the review.

    1. Thanks for mentioning the Lady Eleanor series. I haven't read any of those but will look for them.