In this novel, a private secretary and a police detective investigate a murder at a British estate.
The Earl of Unsworth is atop the highest turret of his English castle, taking a brief respite from the large, extravagant 18th-birthday party he’s throwing for his favorite niece and ward, Fanny, when his butler interrupts him. The man informs Unsworth that an unknown young woman’s body has just been found in the garden. Hoping to avoid a scandal, Unsworth asks his highly efficient and capable private secretary, Mr. Quayle, to conduct his own discreet inquiries alongside the official police investigation. Despite misgivings, Quayle agrees. To his surprise, an old army buddy, now Detective Inspector Wintle, turns out to be in charge of solving the crime. Despite their friendship, Wintle is not happy to have a civilian tagging along—or, in fact, trying to stay one step ahead. It soon becomes clear to both men that the Unsworth family is holding back its secrets, and that not everything and everyone are what they seem. Their attempts to track down the identity of the murdered woman and how she came to be in the castle garden on the night of the party take both Quayle and Wintle far afield, including to London, as they try to sift through the conflicting stories offered by the members of the Unsworth family. The two sleuths interview Fanny—a surprisingly steely social butterfly—her domineering aunt Lady Constance, and her hapless, ne’er-do-well cousin Arthur, who has an unfortunate penchant for running away at crucial moments. Set in the 1920s, this second installment of Slayton’s series certainly checks all the boxes of the English country house mystery genre—a wealthy aristocrat’s estate, a long-lost relative, a missing family heirloom, a loyal household staff, and an enigmatic riddle. But the story never feels merely formulaic, thanks to vivid writing, lively characters, and quietly snarky humor that will keep readers engaged from Page 1. This entertaining mystery hits all the right genre buttons in a fresh way.
An English country house mystery infused with humor, verve, and plenty of surprises.
A Most Efficient Murder: A 1920s Country House Mystery by Anthony Slayton is the first book in the Mr. Quayle Mysteries. Lord Unsworth hosts a party that quickly becomes a mystery perfect gathering with red herrings, misleads, and scandalous secrets. Not to mention the body found in the garden. Lord Unsworth's castle grounds become the setting for a murder investigation which puts the Earl and his family in the spotlight with their secrets threatening to be exposed underneath the police's series of questions. The Unsworth reputation is on the brink of ruin, thanks to the scandal, but Lord Unsworth's secretary Mr. Quayle takes it upon himself to investigate and clear the family's name.The mystery is written in a style that takes you back to 1929 with strong details, layered exposition, a charming sleuth, and societal drama. The story is reminiscent of the tone of classic mysteries which deliver suspects, clues, and questions around each corner. Mr. Quayle is a phenomenal character, serving the role as a regular Poirot with the secretary becoming a detective, thanks to the whims of his employer. He's described as a ready-in-waiting sleuth that finds inspiration from famous detectives like Sherlock Holmes and Arsene Lupin. The story shifts between Mr. Quayle's sleuthing and the investigative work of Constable Wells and Inspector Wintle who are digging into the affairs of this family, which threatens to expose them. Anthony Slayton excels at the small details that bring the mystery to life and characters that add charm against the 1920s backdrop. The historical details and mannerisms are spot-on, creating a step back into the past that is delightful. A Most Efficient Murder is clever, enjoyable, charming, and a must-read for all historical mystery lovers.