This is one of those stories that seems to be written strictly for the fans of a series. And since I’m a huge fan of the Lady Julia series, I grabbed it up eagerly. It is a short novella that takes a break from the usual darker murder mysteries and intense romantic relationship that Lady Julia and her detective husband, Brisbane share together. There is a light mystery, light sweet romantic interludes and gathering as a family for the holidays to entertain the reader.
Julia and Brisbane along with their animal menagerie journey by train down to her March family (as in the ‘madder than a March hare’ Marches no less) ancestral estate which is an old, brooding abbey that featured in the second novel, Silence in the Sanctuary. Julia’s older sister Portia, her baby daughter and Portia’s pets journey down with them. They are soon joined by their brother, Plum, but none of the other Marches can make it until the big family Twelfth Night gathering.
Almost on arrival Julia senses that things are a bit off at the Abbey. Her father is in a dark mood, her aunt is skittish and secretive, a ghost has been sighted once again and things are going missing, but nobody wants to do anything about them. Worst of all, no preparations have been made for the family holiday traditions and it all feels bleak and flat to Julia who remembers the joys of Christmas in the Abbey from other years.
The plot is simple and not the usual thing, as I noted before, for this series, but it was fun to see Brisbane in a lighter romantic mood though still himself to some extent. Julia is as curious and connivingly meddlesome as ever, but it is her machinations that eventually save the day even if the situation in this story isn’t as dire as the usual mysteries she is confronted with. It was nice to visit with some of Julia’s family though the typical level of March family madness was a bit subdued though only by degree.
All in all, it was a nice little ‘warm fuzzy’ interlude as I impatiently await the next installment in this fab murder mystery series.
If you haven’t had a chance to read this series set mostly in Victorian England, I can recommend it to those who enjoy murder mysteries that include a slow to build romance story arc as the series progresses.