A trace of poison

Colleen Cambridge

Book - 2022

"In England's stately manor houses, murder is not generally a topic for polite conversation. Mallowan Hall, home to Agatha Christie and her husband, Max, is the exception. And housekeeper Phyllida Bright delights in discussing gory plot details with her friend and employer... The neighboring village of Listleigh has also become a hub of grisly goings-on, thanks to a Murder Fête organized to benefit a local orphanage. Members of The Detection Club--a group of celebrated authors such as... G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha herself--will congregate for charitable events, including a writing contest for aspiring authors. The winner gets an international publishing contract, and entrants have gathered for a cocktail party--managed by the inimitable Phyllida--when murder strikes too close even for her comfort. It seems the victim imbibed a poisoned cocktail intended for Alastair Whittlesby, president of the local writers' club. The insufferable Whittlesby is thought to be a shoo-in for the prize, and ambition is certainly a worthy motive. But narrowing down these suspects could leave even Phyllida's favorite fictional detective, M. Poirot, twirling his mustache in frustration. It's a mystery too intriguing for Phyllida to resist, but one fraught with duplicity and danger, for every guest is an expert in murder--and how to get away with it..."--Dust jacket flap.

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Cambridge, Colleen. Phyllida Bright mystery.
Detective and mystery fiction
Cozy mysteries
New York, NY : Kensington Publishing Corp 2022.
First Kensington hardcover edition
Item Description
Sequel to: Murder at Mallowan Hall.
Physical Description
260 pages ; 23 cm
Main Author
Colleen Cambridge (author)
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

The Murder Fete, a gathering of amateur and professional mystery writers in the English village of Listleigh, provides the backdrop for Cambridge's delightful sequel to 2021's Murder at Mallowan Hall. When a Catholic priest is poisoned during the festival, Phyllida Bright, Agatha Christie's fictional housekeeper, quickly determines that the intended victim may have been the loathsome Alastair Whittlesby, president of the local writers' club. Whittlesby has been considered the front-runner to win a writing contest with a prize of a publishing contract, and he believes that one of the other amateur writers wanted him out of the way. Cambridge weaves in just the right amount of historical detail and references to classic Christie novels while placing Phyllida and her intelligent sleuthing skills front and center. That the judges for the contest include Christie and other members of the real-life Detection Club, including Anthony Berkeley, G.K. Chesterton, and Dorothy L. Sayers, only adds to the fun. Fans of traditional mysteries will appreciate the author's sometimes tongue-in-cheek adherence to the conventions of the genre, particularly the denouement where all is revealed. Dame Agatha would be proud. Agent: Maura Kye-Casella, Don Congdon Assoc. (Nov.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Cambridge balances Downton Abbey-style period charm with a tight plot that twists and turns right until the end, with utter believability. The village of Listleigh's Murder Club, a group of aspiring detective novelists, host a Murder Fête, a fundraiser whose guests include local celebrity Agatha Christie and other members of the real-life Detection Club (G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy L. Sayers). The event will culminate in naming the winner of a mystery-writing contest guaranteeing publication in Britain and the States. But when the local who was to announce the contest winner is poisoned at the opening-night cocktail party, Christie's housekeeper, Phyllida Bright, is drawn in to investigate. In Cambridge's winning second entry in this series (after Murder at Mallowan Hall), Mrs. Bright finds a sparring and detection partner in Bradford, the new chauffeur with an unexpected knowledge of poisons; their rapport sets the stage for further development. The real-life historical players make only brief cameos, but Cambridge creates such a compelling cast of fictional characters that they are hardly missed. VERDICT Reminiscent of Jessica Ellicott's "Beryl & Edwina" series, this novel will please readers with its historical world and a plot that would satisfy Poirot.--Jon Jeffryes

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A charitable Murder Fête at Mallowan Hall brings Agatha Christie's housekeeper her second case. Hardly have real-life Detection Club authors G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Anthony Berkeley joined members of the fictional Listleigh Murder Club than Father Tooley, pastor of St. Wendreda's Catholic Church, the financial beneficiary of the event, collapses in the Mallowan library. As the local authors competing for a publishing contract circle the murder scene, debating which poison could have killed him, Mallowan housekeeper Phyllida Bright takes it all in with a coolly appraising eye. When Inspector Cork arrives on the scene, solicitor Alastair Whittlesby, the overbearing president of the Listleigh, assures him that since the poison was slipped into the imported bitters that were a key ingredient of his favorite cocktail, he must have been the intended victim. The Mallowan cook is dumbfounded when she's asked to limit her offerings to a "cold supper? After a murder?" A second poisoning considerably muddies the waters. So does Cork's arrest of vicar Digby Billdop, whose Anglican church stands opposite St. Wendreda's on the village green. Phyllida insists that even though the vicar was competing with Whittlesby for the publishing prize, he can't possibly be guilty. But authors Mathilda Crowley and Louis Genevan and unpublished author Vera Rollingbroke are still likely candidates. The theft of an antique table and a fatal car crash produce new frissons but not clarification, which has to await the brain wave that allows Phyllida to summon all the suspects to the pleasingly extended denouement. Cambridge takes inspiration from several of Christie's most celebrated novels in devising her agreeably intricate plot. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.