Narrator: Billie Fulford-Brown
Series: Amory Ames #1
Published by Dreamscape Media on December 1, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Length: 11 hours, 42 minutes
Amazon, Audible, Audiobook, Barnes & Noble, Apple
Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.
Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim.
I’ve been on an historical mystery binge for the past several months. When selecting a new book, I look for an interesting plot, a believable female lead, and a little romance. So when the library app kindly suggested Murder at the Brightwell as a cozy, between-the-wars mystery I might enjoy reading next, I did two things. First, I read the synopsis and decided the story met my selection criteria. Second, I looked to see if this was part of a series, because I am all about binge reading. The answer, YES! Murder at the Brightwell, by Ashely Weaver, is the first book in the Amory Ames Mystery series, of which there are currently seven installments. OK, I’ll admit, the gorgeous cover was the icing on the cake. It was like a vintage travel poster advertising my next reading adventure.
According to Wikipedia, “Cozy mysteries…are a subgenre of crime fiction in which sex and violence occur off stage, the detective is an amateur sleuth, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community.” Murder at the Brightwell is very Christie-eque and could easily find a home amid the classic tales that defined this genre. Socialite Amory Ames is living a quiet, simple life in the country when her ex-fiancé, Gil, asks for her help in a family matter. She can hardly refuse and dashes off to a swanky hotel at the English seaside. Spending time with Gil reignites fond feelings and forces her to reexamine her marriage to the handsome playboy, Milo. While trying to decide what she really wants from love, she’s thrust into the middle of a murder-mystery where her own life depends on finding the killer.
The detective is the heart of any good detective novel. Amory is an intriguing, intelligent, and charming young woman, whose own struggles allow her to empathize and connect with the people around her. She invites confidence and effortlessly establishes rapport with the supporting characters; whether that be the grumpy Detective Inspector, the haughty businessman, or the enigmatic socialite.
A mystery within the mystery is the relationship between Amory and Milo. Why is her marriage in the state it is? What happened? Who is to blame? Where is their relationship going? Will she go back to Gil? The answers are not so obvious and the author does a great job of allowing the love triangle to play out in a natural, unhurried way.
Ms. Weaver does an excellent job of capturing the mood of English high society in the 1930’s. In an era defined by social unrest and depression, the Bright Young Things lived decadent, wild lives. While they were too young to fight in the First World War, they came of age in the aftermath and seemed determined to seize every moment, smashing the boundaries of polite society and gender norms. The characters, especially the women, in Murder at the Brightwell, exhibit the new-found independence and recklessness of that era.
The storyline was smart and well-executed. The action moved forward at a brisk pace, but didn’t skimp where it counted. The backdrop of the English seaside was elegantly and gorgeously depicted, it could just have easily been Nice or Monte Carlo. Witty banter, intrigue, and a cast of interesting suspects made this a mystery that kept me guessing all the way to the end.
I have mixed feelings about the narration. I think the diction was clear and easy to follow. The voice for Amory was spot on, but the other characters didn’t quite work for me. I found the male voices clunky and confusing. I increased the speed to 1.25x, but this only seemed to make the male voices more comical, so I returned to listening at normal speed. I don’t think that the book was any less enjoyable because of the narration, and I would certainly continue to listen to the series in audio format.
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