In Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver, Amory Ames has suffered through a tedious marriage filled with her husband’s infidelities for five years. Then one day, Gil Trent, Amory’s ex-fiance, comes to see her because his sister, Emmeline, is engaged to a man Gil fears is corrupt. He wants to enlist Amory to join his group of friends at the Brightwell Hotel by the seaside and get Amory to help discourage Emmeline from going through with the marriage. The day after they arrive, however, Amory goes to meet Emmeline and Rupert for tea, but Rupert fails to join them, and, leaning over the railing, Amory spots Rupert’s body at the bottom of the landing. What is worse, however, is that the local Criminal Investigation Division (CID) believes Rupert to have been murdered.
As Amory starts to wonder about finding the truth, she is both surprised and annoyed to discover that Milo has followed her to the seaside. She finds him chasing her, especially in the presence of Gil, who gets arrested for the murder due to his antipathy towards Rupert’s plans to marry his sister. As Amory works to clear Gil’s name, she finds that Milo always has her back whenever she gets into trouble, sending mixed signals to her about his personal intentions.
Murder at the Brightwell proved to be a perfectly fine book, with decent writing and quality twists to the plot. However, despite its fitting all the essential characteristics of a good historical mystery, a genre that strongly draws me, I just could not connect with this book. It is hard to determine the reason, but I can pinpoint a couple issues. First, I never became fully invested in the characters. In fact, with the exception of Amory, Milo, Gil, Emmeline, and Rupert, I had a hard time keeping straight the rest of the rather large cast list. And I never truly felt connected to these people, never rooting for them to succeed. Second, I did not appreciate the author’s attempt to make us want to emphasize with Amory’s cheating, lying, and frequently disappearing husband. Milo does come across as a charming rogue, but I did not like being encouraged by the content to support the idea that Amory’s should not only put up with her husband but should take him back.
The audio edition of this book is performed by Billy Fulford-Brown. I found it interesting to see that she got such poor reviews on Audible that Alison Larkin took over the role for her in the rest of the series. I, however, was not bothered by the narration and do not actually see what people complained about. The performance did not stand out especially memorably, but I saw nothing to complain about.
Murder at the Brightwell was a perfectly reasonable book with a clever plot. The storyline had creative elements, with an interesting placement in history. However, the characters just did not draw me to them or make me support them. I give the book three stars.
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