Title: The Mitford Scandal
Author: Jessica Fellowes
Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime
Published: 24th September 2019
Synopsis: The newly married and most beautiful of the Mitford sisters, Diana, hot-steps around Europe with her husband and fortune heir Bryan Guinness, accompanied by maid Louisa Cannon, as well as some of the most famous and glamorous luminaries of the era. But murder soon follows, and with it, a darkness grows in Diana’s heart . . .
This wonderful new book in the bestselling THE MITFORD MURDERS series sees the Mitford sisters at a time of scandalous affairs, political upheaval and murder.
The year is 1928, and fortune heir Bryan Guinness weds eighteen-year-old Diana, most beautiful of the six Mitford sisters. The newlyweds begin a whirlwind life zipping between London’s Mayfair, chic Paris and romantic Venice. Accompanying Diana is Louisa Cannon, as well as a coterie of friends, family and hangers-on, from Nancy Mitford to Evelyn Waugh.
But when one of their party is found dead in Paris in 1930, Louisa begins to think that they might have a murderer in their midst. As the hedonism of the age spirals out of control, shadows darken across Europe…and within the heart of Diana Mitford herself.
After three books, starting in the early to mid-1920s. we are now headed towards a series of events in world history that plunges Europe and the world into the Great Depression and World War Two. Against the backdrop of impending economic crisis in the years following the end of World War One, or what was known in the 1920s as The Great War, there are hints at unrest in Europe, especially Germany. This is filtered through the only Mitford brother, Tom, who appears every now and then, discussing the politics of the day and setting up what is to come, and what we know happened with the six Mitford sisters during the war for the books that are to come, presumably focusing on Unity, Jessica (Decca) and Deborah (Debo).
Louisa and Nancy are perhaps the key anchors throughout these books, as well as the rest of the Mitfords, occupying much of the action, especially Louisa, who is reunited with Guy, her policeman friend in this book when some maids at a Mitford party fall through a skylight, and die, and another vanishes, setting in motion a side mystery. Yet the key mystery begins in Paris, and weaves in and out across the early 1930s as death touches the Mitford-Guinness party across the years in mystery deepens, and ebbs and flows as suspects are interviewed until the death of the prime suspect seems to bring a halt to the case – which ends up being much more complicated than anyone first thought.
This series takes real life people, fictional people and uses the world and politics they existed within to create mysteries that are engaging and thrilling to read. The pacing of them fits the setting and ensures a desire to read on – especially when things seem to wrap up too neatly, that as a reader, I knew there was more to what had happened. Something had to give because it was all too easy.
Simmering beneath the mystery is the growing tensions of post-war Europe, and the clashing of political ideologies, such as communism, fascism, democracy and Nazism – with some characters expressing an interest in Nazis and indeed suggesting they would support them. This is chilling as we know what the Nazi regime eventually led to. Reading about these people, even in a fictional way, before they became embroiled in and deeply connected to the Nazi regime and ideology is chilling because instead of reading them just as Nazis, we get to see how they start to gravitate towards this ideology and the scandal that it eventually caused within society and their family. What it leads it is an ending where whilst the crime may be solved, the family and those around them – and the reader – will be plunged into a world where nothing is certain, and where Louisa may soon find she does not know who she can trust.
I have been following this series since it first started, and have been loving it, looking forward to seeing what happens next. As we descend into fractious politics that will divide family and a coming war, it is starting to sit comfortably alongside the Rowland Sinclair mysteries as a series that combines family, politics and murder and the world of the 1930s to create stories that are engaging and thrilling.