Edmondson, Elizabeth. A Man of Some Repute.

Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2015.

It’s always nice to discover a new mystery author and a new set of interesting characters living in a new setting. Edmondson has produced eight previous novels but this appears to be her first sort-of detective story, set in the early days of the Cold War.

So it’s 1953 in darkest England and Hugo Hawksworth is reporting for duty to the secret government department for which he works in a small town four hours from London.

Until recently, he was a field agent in the Secret Service, but then he got shot in the leg in Berlin and now he’s permanently off the active list, relegated to a desk in the Service’s archives. Because of the postwar housing shortage, he’s going to be staying at Selchester Castle, a genuine medieval fortress that has been kept up much better than most. He’s accompanied by Georgia, his thirteen-year-old sister (and about twenty years younger than Hugo, which might be stretching credulity), who was orphaned by a V-2 and is happy to escape from the girl’s school up in Yorkshire where she had been stashed. (She’ll be attending the local high school, which is fine with her.) So the two siblings don’t really know each other very well, but both are willing to try.

Back in January 1947, the Earl of Selchester, while hosting a weekend party, apparently walked off into a snow storm after supper and was never seen again. Two months later, his heir was killed in action in Palestine. The title will cease to exist but there’s still the castle and a very large fortune, and the next heir in line is his daughter, Lady Sonia, who is used to getting her own way and is chafing at the seven-year rule before the presumably late Earl can legally be declared dead. She’s planning to sell off everything and the hell with the rest of the family. But then a skeleton wearing the family signet ring is discovered by a plumber under the chapel’s flagstone floor and suddenly the missing person case has become a murder.

Hugo and Georgia have been settling in with the assistance of Freya Wryton, the Earl’s niece and also a resident of the castle (partly because she can’t keep her horse in the city), along with a cook/housekeeper and a caretaker/handyman. The local police would like to just blame the Earl’s death on his late son, who can’t defend himself, and close the case, but Freya — who was very close to her cousin — isn’t going to allow that. And Hugo, who has talents as an investigator, finds himself dragooned into helping her solve the case. Nor is Georgia going to permit herself to be left out.

Even though there are a few minor continuity problems, and a few equally minor issues in the area of social history (something I know about), this is an above-average story, with a good mystery, a few red herrings, and a believable resolution. And there’s an obvious set-up for a sequel at the very end.


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