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.
Title: The Golden Hour | Author: Malia Zaidi | Series: Lady Evelyn #4 | Publisher: BookBaby | Pages: 398 | ISBN: 9781543959499 | Publication date: 26th March 2019 | Source: Review copy provided by author
‘The Golden Hour’ is a solidly enjoyable period whodunnit that wears its influences on its sleeve. It has an engaging heroine, a decent plot and a little bit of social commentary to keep things interesting.
This is the fourth of the ‘Lady Evelyn’ mysteries from Malia Zaidi and the first that I’ve read. It’s easily digestible as a standalone work and I enjoyed it enough that I might check out the first three next time Amazon have a deal on Kindle Unlimited subscriptions. This volume sees Lady Evelyn, a plucky young woman in 1920s Britain, heading up to Scotland to visit her aunt and cousin in their mansion. Before too long there’s a murder and Lady Evelyn sets about investigating that and a previous crime in the same village.
If it sounds a bit like an Agatha Christie novel, that’s because it is. In fact, it’s a lot like an Agatha Christie novel. It would be pretty remarkable if the book was as good as Christie, and it isn’t, but the good news is that Zaidi borrows well from the grand dame of the murder mystery. The mystery here is well laid out, the setting and characters (especially Lady Evelyn) are fun and after a slightly slow start the plot moves on at a pretty decent pace. Like Christie’s books, this isn’t a “cosy” mystery. The mansion it is set in is used as a halfway house for soldiers still recovering from shellshock after the First World War and the denouement is pretty dark. The PTSD theme was well handled, managing to be both appropriate for the time, and still topical today.
Zaidi is clearly well aware of the debt she owes to Christie, and has the heroine reading one of her novels on the train to Scotland. She also throws in a Poirot-style scene before the final act where Lady Evelyn makes a list of suspects and motives. All this makes for a book that is honest about the fact that it isn’t desperately original, and which is readable and fun. I read the whole second half on a rainy Sunday with copious cups of tea, which suited it perfectly.
If I had a criticism other than the slow start, it would be that it’s a fair bit longer than it needs to be. At nearly 400 pages it’s about 30% longer than many of Dame Agatha’s books, and the content just doesn’t justify that many pages. That aside, it’s an entertaining read and definitely worth your consideration if this kind of thing is your cup of tea.
This post is part of a damppebbles blog tour. If you’d like to check out other reviews of the book, you can find them at the blogs below.