It is fall 1909, and in A Picture of Murder by T.E. Kinsey, Lady Emily Hardcastle and her lady’s maid/ partner in investigation, Florence Armstrong, have been having fun since their last adventure. They have spent their time practicing making moving pictures, which they call kinematographs. So when their neighbor has a fire in her kitchen, Lady Hardcastle is thrilled to get to host a quartet of “film folk” at her home since the Grange is out of commission. The team of three actors and their producer/ director is in the small town of Littleton Cotterell in Gloucestershire to show their films, in particular their crowning film, The Witch’s Downfall. But this film has developed opposition. Aaron Orem, once a close friend and colleague of producer Nolan Cheatham and now personal enemy, has been following Nolan to let the world know his opinion that Nolan stole his idea for a script in The Witch’s Downfall. Then there are the Hugheses, who have also been following the film folk to protest the evil of witchcraft that they think is in the film, despite never having seen it.
Then, early the morning after the showing of The Witch’s Downfall, Flo opens the door to Sergeant Dobson, who informs her that Basil Newhouse, the male star of the film, has been found murdered in the churchyard. And his death mimics his character’s death in the film. Because Inspector Suderland has multiple cases to investigate, he leaves things nominally in the charge of Sergeant Dobson, but he privately lets Lady Hardcastle know that he trusts her to oversee the investigation discreetly. But before they can solve the mystery, more deaths take place in imitation of the controversial film. Now Lady Hardcastle and Florence must really step up to solve the case before even more deaths can occur.
I have loved all the books by T.E. Kinsey, always eagerly awaiting the new release of the next book in the series, which consists of four full- length books and one novella. This latest, A Picture of Murder, did not disappoint. It did not seem to have quite as much banter and word play as the previous books, but the quality was just as enjoyable. The relationship between the two main characters gives pleasure as we have fun with the pair’s clever interactions. The other characters are not as vividly clever, but I appreciated them too.
The mystery plot has a lot of creativity to it as well as giving us more fun with the characters. The murders that emulate the actions of the witch film provide plenty of room for creative details. The historical settings, such as the rarity of automobiles and the earliest days of moving pictures add strong flavor to the book as well. It started out a little slow for me, but it didn’t take long for me to get absorbed by the audiobook and not want to turn it off.
One other element of A Picture of Murder that I really liked was the way that the two heroines recount their history together in how they met and got involved as spies for the British empire. In telling the story by taking turns doing so, the women create a narrative that becomes even more fun than just the plot would already have done.
Elizabeth Knoweldon performs the audio edition of this book and does a lot to make the book seem all the more delightful. She handles the word play and banter between Lady Hardcastle and Florence with deftness. Further, she uses clever accents and convincing voices for the many characters from different locations.
A Picture of Murder was an exciting and delightful book that kept me absorbed and deeply hooked on this fun story and characters. I loved it as much as the previous books, especially getting to learn the back story of Lady Hardcastle’s and Florence’s espionage days. I give this book five stars!
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