In Dinner Most Deadly by Sheri Cobb South, Lady Julia Fieldhurst’s friend, Lady Emily Dunnington, decides to host a dinner in Julia’s honor for the purpose of the latter to choose a lover. It proves to be a highly awkward dinner, in the midst of which it gets crashed by Lord Dunnington, furious that his estranged wife has made overtures of taking on Sir Reginald Montague as her own lover. The men all rush out early, soon after the dinner is over. The only man not eager to exit is Sir Reginald, who grudgingly takes his leave of the women. Just as the women are settling in to talk, they hear a shot, and rushing out to the doorstep, they find the body of Sir Reginald.
Thus, Lady Dunnington sends her footman to Bow Street for the runner John Pickett, who had saved the life of Lady Fieldhurst by proving her innocence in the murder of her husband. But John has a secret that Lady Fieldhurst has yet to learn: In their recent trip to Scotland, without knowing that they were doing so, the pair had contracted an irregular marriage. In the midst of the investigation, during which Pickett discovers that no one has a positive word to say about Sir Reginald, Pickett also deals with the difficulty of obtaining an annulment for this marriage. In particular due to the nasty nature of Sir Reginald, it takes a brilliant stroke of genius on Pickett’s part to uncover the truth.
I have been enjoying the John Pickett books, and Dinner Most Deadly is a strong entry in this series. The mystery plot has many interesting angles, with each member of the dinner party coming under suspicion in turn. The investigation gives us many red herrings, and the solution comes as a surprise but with a logical route to the answer.
This book contains interesting characters, as well as a powerful romance. We see the internal struggles of both Pickett and Lady Fieldhurst. Both face much confliction over the issue of their marriage and subsequent requirements for an annulment. This requires Pickett to prove impotence and an inability to consummate their marriage, a humiliating process. The supporting characters also have depth, as each comes to life over the course of the book.
The book deals with significant issues of class and money in a society when mobility between classes was unheard of. While it is obvious that Pickett and Lady Fieldhurst care deeply about each other, the possibility of their ever ending up together seems impossible in the era. We also see how money makes a big difference, as the poor Irish nobleman can’t seem to find a bride due to his penury despite his having a title.
Joel Froomkin does an admirable job of bringing Dinner Most Deadly to life. He takes us to 19th century London with the flavor of the era. His voices for the characters come across effectively, and his voice seems well suited to the era. This performance successfully draws the images of the book and manages the Scottish accent of Mr. Cahoun, head of the Bow Street Runners, as well as the Irish nobleman.
I highly appreciated listening to Dinner Most Deadly. It was a fun book with a creative mystery plot. In addition, the characters keep us connected well to the book, and we find ourselves rooting for John Pickett and Lady Fieldhurst to make a successful marriage. In my opinion, this is the strongest in the series so far. I give the book five stars.
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