Death Among Rubies is the second Lady Frances Fflokes mystery (the third will be published in November). I did a review on Death on the Sapphire two weeks ago and wanted to do the second book as soon as possible. So here it is…..
We find Lady Frances and her lady’s maid, June Mallow traveling with two of Frannie’s friends, Gwendolyn and Tomasina to visit Gwen’s family estate, Kestrel’s Eyrie. After dinner with assorted guests, Gwen’s father, Sir Calleford, a powerful diplomat, is stabbed to death, in his study, with his ruby encrusted dagger. Frannie who we learned in the first mystery is quite adept at solving murders much to the dismay of Scotland Yard…is at it again! The guests include a Turkish diplomat, an American heiress and her loving father, a French couple, a couple of impoverished widows, Gwen’s aunt and her son, Christopher who is like a brother to Gwen. The plot isn’t terribly involved but does, indeed, have twists and turns. Of course, the dagger has a curse associated with it, Scotland Yard Special Branch becomes involved as does Frannie’s love interest and her attorney, Hal, and her disapproving brother (of her lifestyle), Charles. The story even gives Mallow a bit of romance. Frannie again involves Mallow in her intrigues and Mallow, rises to each occasion and becomes more educated and a bit less uptight in the process. I love that she is more concerned with how Lady Frances looks that Lady Frances is…adds a touch of humor to the story especially when Frannie dresses in working man’s clothing, a scandal in Mallow’s eyes! Most of the story is set in the countryside estate, not in London. I enjoyed the stories of the staff’s views of their employers, and how they will talk to others of their station, such as Mallow and not to Frannie, although she does have a way of getting information from everyone. The view of the peer system is a big part of the story.
I found the continuation of the suffragette story an interesting one…nothing new there but Frannie was really living two lives, which she has no intention of giving up, it was fascinating to me. On one side she is an aristocrat and on the other a free-thinking modern woman…at that time, the early 20th Century, not unusual for many young (and not so young) women, but unless one was as outspoken as our heroine I would imagine a difficult path. Her understanding of the times, the mores of all classes, make it an interesting look at an era that was evolving very quickly. For some unknown reason, Frannie reminds me a bit and only a bit of Phryne Fisher and the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, (I do love the books and the television series) a later time and place but still a thoroughly independent, engaging woman who we admire and want to know more about.
Now my opinion of the book, I did enjoy it but not as much as the first of the series, Death on the Sapphire. I do like Koreto’s writing (I did find a couple of repeated phrases within a couple of pages, that should have been caught by his editor, but never mind!!!!). Outside the main characters, I found the others to be rather stereotypical, the wealthy American heiress and her father looking for a titled husband, the Turkish diplomat who seems suspicious (is he!?), the village widows who are more than they seem (in that case they were!), etc. All in all an enjoyable read…not one that stretched my mind but then after a busy few weeks that isn’t all bad. I am looking forward to the further adventures of Lady Frances Ffolkes and her band of characters. Let me know your thoughts when you read it.