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My late mother was very old fashioned. She liked mysteries but she didn't want blood and gore, profanity, or sex. She just wanted a nice cozy mystery. While looking around to try and find something new for her to read I came across Mrs. Jeffries Learns the Trade by Emily Brightwell. This book fit the bill and my Mom loved it. It contained the first three books in the series. Unfortunately I found that several of the earlier books were out of print. Her publishers have remedied that now and all but three of the books have been released in anthologies and those three are scheduled to be released early next year. So grab a cup of tea, wrap your favorite afghan around you and let's get cozy with the first three Mrs. Jeffries mysteries.

Mrs. Jeffries is a middle aged housekeeper for Inspector Witherspoon of Scotland Yard. We join the story after the Inspector has been successful on some difficult murder cases. What he doesn't know is that it is his faithful housekeeper and the rest of the staff who are finding out clues and feeding them to him. Mrs. Jeffries is the widow of a policeman and her knowledge of her husband's cases are what gives her the edge in detecting for the Inspector. Witherspoon is a sweet natured man who often wishes that he were back in the record's room but the more cases he solves the farther he gets from ever going back to that quiet life. The rest of the staff consist of Betsey, the pretty young housemaid who was rescued by the Inspector when she collapsed seriously ill on his doorstep. Wiggins is the young footman who is perpetually in love with one pretty face after another. Smythe is fierce looking man who takes care of the Inspector's horses. He came home from Australia to find his former employer was dying and people taking advantage of her. He threw them out all except Wiggins and promised the old lady he would stay and take care of her nephew and heir Gerald Witherspoon. Mrs. Goodge is the cook who once was cook for some big names in the aristocracy. Her rheumatism convinced her to take a position in an easier household.
In The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries Dr. Bartholomew Slocum has been found dead. Poison is immediately suspected. Inspector Witherspoon is in a muddle as usual at the start of the case. There are no witnesses as unusually the Doctor had sent his entire staff out for the day. Constable Barnes does what he can to help the Inspector along using good old common sense. Inspector Nigel Nivens is furious that Witherspoon gets all the murder cases and is convinced he is getting help. He badly wants to ruin Witherspoon's career and take over as the "brilliant" solver of murders.

Mrs. Jeffries discovers that the rest of her staff have figured out that she is helping the Inspector on his cases. They are more than happy to help themselves. Betsey specializes in talking to shop keepers. Wiggins talks to the young housemaids getting information from servants. Smythe gathers gossip in taverns. Mrs. Goodge never leaves her kitchen but plies deliverymen, chimney sweeps, etc. with food to find out her information.

They realize that the murderer has to be among the neighbors and set out to find out what they can. Dr. Hightower found the body. He is conducting a clandestine affair with Mrs. Leslie who is fiercely protected by her French maid Nanette. Colonel Seaward is up for honors the next time the Queen names ambassadors. The book has the introduction of Luty Belle Crookshank and her butler Hatchet. Luty Belle is an elderly widow who lived in the Wild West and carries a 45 Colt in her muff. Hatchet is the proper butler with more than a few secrets of his own. They are two of the most delightful characters ever. Slocum's servants are also suspicious characters.

This introduction to the mysteries is a lot of fun. I knew I was hooked. The reoccurring cast of characters and the way we learn more about them as we go along helps to make these mysteries enjoyable. Mom loved them and that gives them a special place in my heart.

In Mrs. Jeffries Dusts for Clues Luty Belle Crookshank asks Mrs. Jeffries and the others for help in locating a young woman who has gone missing. The shocked staff realizes that this feisty old woman is one smart cookie. It was apparent to Luty Belle that it was the staff who was ferreting out clues. They agree to try and find Mary Sparks.

Inspector Witherspoon is soon engaged in another murder when the body of a young woman is found buried in the basement of a house scheduled for demolition. Soon everyone is looking for two missing woman. Cassie Yates has also gone missing. The body is too decomposed to try and determine the identity of the victim.

As the servants investigate they begin to understand just how good they have it working for Inspector Witherspoon. As they check out the very wealthy Lutterbank family where the missing woman once worked they discover how mean and petty some households can be. Working for Reverend Everdene and his family is no better. The Reverend drinks too much and his hands are too loose with the poor maids. If a maid finds herself pregnant because of the Master of the House she is out on the street with no references and little chance of surviving. Even though these are cozy mysteries you still find out that life during that time, when Jack the Ripper was on the loose, can be very difficult.

The Ghost and Mrs. Jeffries deals with spiritualists something that was very popular during that era. The thoroughly unpleasant Mrs. Hodges is warned by Mrs. Popejoy that a black cloud of death is present. Actually it was more like someone waiting with a gun that was present. Inspector Witherspoon finds that he not only has spiritualists to deal with but a younger grieving husband, a niece whose love life was destroyed by the victim, all the servants out for the evening, a housekeeper who doesn't seem to be playing with a full deck, and of course Inspector Nivens who thinks he should have gotten the case since it dealt with a robbery and that was supposed to be his area of expertise.

We start to see more of the inner dynamics of the household in this book. Betsey and Smythe are starting to show feelings for each other but feelings they both deny. You learn a little about Betsey's life before coming to the household and more about Smythe's time in Australia.

In the meantime Inspector Witherspoon is struggling to figure out how the killer got in, who the killer is, and whether the pretty niece and her ex-fiancé are guilty or being set up.  The housekeeper Mrs. Trotter exhibits definite signs of mental instability. To make matters even worse notes are being delivered in the Inspector's name. There is a clever protagonist in this one and the ending is really great.

This series is now up to 32 books. I'll review more of these books later doing a few at a time. They are enjoyable books and great for a chilly evening when you just want to curl up and be entertained gently. I like being able to get to know the main characters and watch how their lives evolve.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule:

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
2:00 PM What's on Your E-Reader? Caedy
2:00 PM Bibliophile's Wish List Caedy
4:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery michelewln, Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
alternate Thursdays 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 8:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
Fri 10:00 PM Slightly Foxed -- But Still Desirable shortfinals
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 12:00 PM You Can't Read That! Paul's Book Reviews pwoodford
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

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