Wednesday, November 17, 2010

ENGLISH TRIFLE, by Josi S. Kilpack

I’d heard about Lemon Tart by a colleague—she loved it. So, when I had the opportunity, I bought English Trifle and had it signed by the author. It is worth the hoopla. Think Murder She Wrote, where an extremely curious, yet charming older woman noses around looking up clues to discover ‘who done it.’ I haven’t read Lemon Tart yet, and Mrs. Kilpack has another culinary mystery, Devil’s Food Cake, but I’m confidant they’re both as entertaining. As an extra bonus, set within the pages of this cozy mystery are several hand-written recipes that Sadie collects during her extended stay in England.

It was a surprise to Sadie Hoffmiller’s daughter, Breanna to discover that the man she loves is in line to be the tenth Earl of Garnett in his home country of England, and after mother and daughter spend their holiday touring England while Liam cares for his father, Breanna realizes that she has no desire to live the life of an aristocrat.

It’s while they’re waiting for their ride back to the London airport, and thinking that the staff is a little too anxious to have them leave that Sadie and Breanna discover a dead man skewered to the wall behind the draperies in the sitting room.

The extremely wealthy are nearly untouchable no matter what part of the world they’re from. So it is in England, and it’s a crazy romp around English aristocracy when Sadie and Breanna call the police. Extremely hesitant to believe that the Earl’s estate could be the place of a murder, the police are even more hesitant to investigate when Lord Austin Melcalfe (who’s been caring for the estate) tells them that the women were merely pulling a prank.

It doesn’t look so good for Sadie and Breanna when, instead of sending a homicide detective, a recorder who collects facts appears—and the body’s been moved. Without a body, could there have been a murder? Except no one can explain the absence of John Henry. Lord Melcalfe and Liam keep arranging for the Americans to go home, and sequestering them to their assigned room. This doesn’t sit well with Sadie. She knows that with a little cooperation and charm, she can solve the murder by herself.

Saying the butler did it is cliché, so Sadie knows it wasn’t him—but all the staff knows more than they’re telling the inspector. When the cook, who doesn’t know how to cook, tells Sadie too much, she is surreptitiously sent to London on holiday.

Austin (Lord Melcalfe) is Sadie’s prime suspect—he’s arrogant, hateful, and he encourages the staff to hold back on telling the truth. Plus, he’s a little too curious about the order of inheritance. But, even though Sadie never discovers a motive for Liam to commit the murder, he keeps doing things that put him on her suspect list.

Mrs. Kilpack expertly weaves the clues in a story that keeps the reader guessing—was it Liam—or Austin—or the butler. Sadie finds evidence to incriminate each of them, and is disturbed to discover the many secrets her own daughter is keeping—but when she finds herself locked in the room where vegetables are kept cold, Sadie doesn’t know if she’ll live to discover the killers true identity.

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