Lady Evelyn Carlisle has barely arrived in London when familial duty calls her away again. Her cousin Gemma is desperate for help with her ailing mother before her imminent wedding, which Evelyn knew nothing about!
Aunt Agnes in tow, she journeys to Scotland, expecting to find Malmo Manor in turmoil. To her surprise, her Scottish family has been keeping far more secrets than the troubled state of their matriarch.
Adding to the tension in the house a neighbour has opened his home, Elderbrooke Park, as a retreat for artistic veterans of the Great War. This development does not sit well with everyone in the community. Is the suspicion towards the residents a catalyst for murder?
A tragedy at Elderbrooke Park’s May Day celebration awakens Evelyn’s sleuthing instinct, which is strengthened when the story of another unsolved death emerges, connected to her own family. What she uncovers on her quest to expose the truth will change several lives forever, including her own. With the shadow of history looming over her, Evelyn must trust in her instinct and ability to comb through the past to understand the present, before the murderer can stop her and tragedy strikes again.
When I was invited on to this blog tour I fully expected the Lady Evelyn Mysteries, (of which The Golden Hour is the fourth) to be your standard cosy historical – period setting, feisty aristocratic female sleuth, and country house parties galore. As a fan of the Daisy Dalrymple series, that would certainly not have been a problem, however, whilst there are similarities between the two series, I was surprised by the depth of The Golden Hour.
Whilst there is indeed a feisty aristocratic female sleuth at the heart of the series, Evelyn hasn’t had the easiest of upbringings and feels quite different from many of her cosy mystery contemporaries. Orphaned at a young age, much of the book involves gentle explorations of her family ties – including a burgeoning friendship with her stern Aunt Agnes, and a renewal of relationships with the Scottish branch of her family. Like Daisy, Evelyn jumps off the page and has a vivacity that allows her to jump across the gap of ages (the book is set in the late 1920s) and feel relatable to the reader of today without feeling anachronistic.
Supporting characters are also nicely realised – I particularly liked Evelyn’s somewhat spiky Aunt Agnes, a wonderful picture of a traditional Edwardian matriarch who has begun to mellow under the influence of a new romance. There were, however, quite a lot of characters, especially once the action of the book moves up to Scotland, and at times I did find it a little difficult to distinguish who was who. A list of characters at the start of the book would have been helpful, especially for readers new to the series (like me) who are unfamiliar with Evelyn and her relationships with established characters such as Aunt Agnes, or Evelyn’s fiancee Daniel and his family.
The mystery itself is well handled – without recourse to science or police resources, Evelyn has to rely on good old-fashioned common sense and logical thinking to unravel the clues and restore harmony to Elderbrooke Park. The pace is somewhat stately – at times I did feel the plot was meandering – but the languid pace does add to the absorption into the period detail and the world of the characters.
And one of the things that I did really like about the book was the fact that the mystery, whilst it does drive the plot forward, isn’t always the central facet of the book. Instead, it feels like you’re just living a few days with these characters, eavesdropping on their conversations and getting a real feel for the period and the everyday concerns of those living in it, whether that is a triviality such as debating over what to wear or a more serious topic such as the way to assist traumatised veterans of the first world war.
Overall I very much enjoyed The Golden Hour. Whilst it was the fourth in the series, it didn’t take too long to pick up the key characters and their backstory and the mystery element is fully standalone. Fans of the Daisy Dalrymple series will certainly find much to enjoy here, with a similar focus on well-drawn characters and immersive period detail. And with three previous outings, for new readers like me, there’s plenty more from Lady Evelyn to go back and enjoy!
The Golden Hour: A Lady Evelyn Mystery by Malia Zaidi is available now in paperback and ebook from Amazon, Book Depository, and Hive. My thanks go to the author for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to Emma Welton from damppebbles for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The tour continues until 24 April 2019 so please do check out the other stops for more reviews, extracts and more!