Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge
“What I feel is that if one has got to have a murder actually happening in one’s house, one might as well enjoy it, if you know what I mean.” — Agatha Christie, The Body in the Library
If you’ve been hanging around The 52 Book Club for a while, you’ll know that we’re a bit obsessed with all things Agatha Christie related. (Join in our Agatha Christie Mystery Challenge here!) So when I saw this new cozy, historical mystery series from Colleen Cambridge, my inner fangirl couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy!
About Murder at Mallowan Hall:
Tucked away among Devon’s rolling green hills, Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright, as efficient as she is personable, manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses…
The manor is home to archaeologist Max Mallowan and his famous wife, Agatha Christie. Phyllida is both loyal to and protective of the crime writer, who is as much friend as employer. An aficionado of detective fiction, Phyllida has yet to find a gentleman in real life half as fascinating as Mrs. Agatha’s Belgian hero, Hercule Poirot. But though accustomed to murder and its methods as frequent topics of conversation, Phyllida is unprepared for the sight of a very real, very dead body on the library floor…
A former Army nurse, Phyllida reacts with practical common sense–and a great deal of curiosity. It soon becomes clear that the victim arrived at Mallowan Hall under false pretenses during a weekend party. Now, Phyllida not only has a houseful of demanding guests on her hands–along with a distracted, anxious staff–but hordes of reporters camping outside. When another dead body is discovered–this time, one of her housemaids–Phyllida decides to follow in M. Poirot’s footsteps to determine which of the Mallowans’ guests is the killer. With help from the village’s handsome physician, Dr. Bhatt, Mr. Dobble, the butler, along with other household staff, Phyllida assembles the clues. Yet, she is all too aware that the killer must still be close at hand and poised to strike again. And only Phyllida’s wits will prevent her own story from coming to an abrupt end…
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There’s a body in the library. Agatha Christie’s library, to be exact.
Murder at Mallowan Hall is a brand new historical mystery series featuring Agatha Christie’s fictional housekeeper. For fans of the famous novelist, this spin-off has an immediately intriguing premise. What would happen if the murder was in Agatha Christie’s home?
In this novel, Phyllida Bright not only discovers the bodies, she also unmasks the murderer. Curious but efficient, Phyllida is housekeeper and personal friend to Agatha Christie. She’s not your typical housekeeper, however, and there’s a hint of mystery in past too. (Guess we’ll have to wait until the next book in the series to find out more! While there are a few interactions with Agatha, the story does mostly focus on Phyllida’s investigations.
In many ways, this mystery did have strong Agatha Christie vibes. The murder takes place in a large house full of suspects — and it has to be someone inside. I also find that Agatha’s books can be a bit slower paced than modern day murder mysteries, and Murder at Mallowan Hall felt as if it had very similar pacing. (This isn’t a bad thing, by the way. Christie books are my all-time favorites for a reason, after all!)
Due to the number of suspects, I did struggle to keep track of who everyone was. However, I loved the downstairs characters and enjoyed the times we got to “see” Agatha Christie. I look forward to getting to know the Mallowan Hall servants more in the coming books in the series.
I also felt that this cozy was very well researched. There was a lot of detail about how a house was run during this time period. This gave a lot of authenticity to the story. In addition, Cambridge weaved numerous facts and bits of trivia about Agatha Christie throughout the novel. As a long time fan of Agatha’s work, I had a lot of fun uncovering these “Easter eggs.”
I don’t read many cozy mysteries, but this is a series I will definitely return too.
While there was the occasional bit of unnecessary repetition, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For fans of the cozy genre, or those who love Agatha’s work, this is a fun historical mystery to check out!