Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Set in Devon, England, circa 1930, this solid series launch from Cambridge (the Lincoln's White House mysteries as C.M. Gleason) introduces Phyllida Bright, the housekeeper at Mallowan Hall, a "modest manor house with fifteen guest rooms" that's home to Agatha Christie and her second husband, Max Mallowan. Phyllida is an unabashed fan of Hercule Poirot, and one reason she's currently unwed is "that she had yet to find a man who met the standards set by the proper Belgian detective." Early one morning, Phyllida goes to draw the curtains in the library and finds one of the Mallowans' house-party guests lying dead on the rug, a fountain pen protruding from the side of his neck. Another murder follows. The general ineptitude of the local police offends Phyllida, who decides to use her little gray cells to solve the case. That Agatha and Max stay on the periphery of the investigation may disappoint those expecting a more active role for them, and keeping track of the large cast of servants, guests, and hangers-on can be hard. Still, readers will want to see more of the clever Phyllida. Agent: Maura Kye-Casella, Don Congdon Assoc. (Nov.)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Finally it can be told: One of Agatha Christie's most popular novels was inspired by a murder at her (fictional) manor house solved by her (fictional) housekeeper. Since Phyllida Bright was a nurse's aide during the Great War, she doesn't turn a hair when she discovers the body of Charles Waring, stabbed in the neck with a fountain pen. The murder is a bit of an embarrassment, though, since Waring was a guest at Mallowan Hall, though an uninvited one who'd arrived only the night before, and since he doesn't really work, as he'd claimed, for the Times of London (which first-time novelist Cambridge calls the London Times). The mystery of who killed him seems less impenetrable than the mystery of why archaeologist Max Mallowan and his wife, famed mystery writer Agatha Christie, would have given the interloper a bed for the night and asked him to dinner with their invited guests: Paul and Amelia Hartford, Odell and Dora Budgely-Rhodes, Geoffrey and Tana Devine, and two single gentlemen, Tuddy Sloup and Stan Grimson. But Phyllida, once she gets over her initial reaction (how will they clean up those bloodstains?), briskly gets down to it, searching the forgettable guests' rooms for incriminating evidence, questioning the Mallowans' 14 servants for further information, and preparing an elaborately self-serving denouement, all the while overlooking the disdain of DI Cork and the severely limited participation of Mrs. Agatha, who comes across as a scatterbrain mainly interested in mining the leading situation for her vastly more successful novel The Body in the Library. Christie fans can expect a series. Don't say you weren't warned. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.