Murder by Invitation Only by Colleen Cambridge
Mystery | Historical Fiction
Calling all Agatha Christie fans! Colleen Cambridge is back again with the third installment in this cozy mystery series that features none other than the fictional housekeeper of Agatha Christie herself, Phyllida Bright! Red herrings, a clue left behind on the body, and a short list of suspects — Murder by Invitation Only has all the classic mystery vibes we love!
Thanks to my unwavering love of The Queen of Mystery, I’ve had a soft spot for this series from the very start. And in this instance, I think it’s a case of the books getting better as we go along. Murder by Invitation Only is my new favorite in the Phyllida Bright Mystery series!
This novel is a spin-off of Agatha Christie’s book, A Murder is Announced. Here, we find Phyllida the recipient of a mysterious note from Christie’s new neighbors, which states, “A murder will occur tonight at Beecham House…” Curious, Phyllida receives permission from out-of-town Agatha Christie to attend on her behalf. Upon her arrival, the housekeeper’s curiosity is satiated, discovering that it’s nothing more than a murder-mystery dinner. Until, of course, one of the actors is found dead for real…
First and foremost, these books are a lot of fun. While Agatha Christie makes an appearance every now and then, the books focus on her staff — mainly, the lively and efficient, Phyllida Bright. This main character not only finds herself constantly on the scene of a murder, but she’s also a natural-born amateur detective and delights in outwitting the local constabulary along the way. In Murder by Invitation Only we finally get to see the slightest of hints at Phyllida’s mysterious backstory. I’m really hoping that this is something we get to explore in the next novel as I think, it’s time!
There are also some really slow-burn, growing sparks between Phyllida and the handsome chauffeur, Bradford — and I was glad we got to see a bit more depth and another side to Bradford, and their friendship, in this novel.
Fans of Agatha Christie are sure to pick up on and love the Easter eggs Cambridge hides within these books. For example, in this novel, Agatha exclaims, “Imagine that. A murder being portended — or announced! Ahead of time … A murder is announced… why that would be quite an intriguing title for a book, wouldn’t it? Good heavens! Why didn’t I think of it before?”
I didn’t think it was entirely plausible that Agatha would send her housekeeper to a dinner invitation on her behalf (even if they are such good friends) but, for the sake of the plot, I understand why it was necessary.
I also pinpointed the murderer from fairly early on but had to wait for all the clues to fall into place to put together motive. While the plot didn’t necessarily feel the most inventive, it was entertaining. Murder by Invitation Only has all the points of a classic mystery and was a thoroughly enjoyable read. I look forward to seeing what’s in store for Phyllida Bright next!
Fans of cozy mysteries featuring appearances from real-world historical figures!
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Advance copy of the book provided courtesy of the publisher, Kensington Books. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
(From the publisher) In this engaging historical mystery, Agatha Christie’s ever-capable housekeeper, Phyllida Bright, not only keeps the celebrated author’s English country home in tip-top shape, she excels as an amateur sleuth. But when a murder-themed game goes awry, can she outfox the guilty party?
“A murder will occur tonight at Beecham House . . .” Who could resist such a compelling invitation? Of course, the murder in question purports to be a party game, and Phyllida looks forward to using some of the deductive skills she has acquired thanks to her employer, Mrs. Agatha, who is unable to attend in person.
The hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Wokesley, are new to the area, and Phyllida gladly offers their own overwhelmed housekeeper some guidance while events get underway. Family friends have been enlisted to play the suspects, and Mr. Wokesley excels in his role of dead body. Unfortunately, when the game’s solution is about to be unveiled, the participants discover that life has imitated art. Mr. Wokesley really is dead!
In the absence of Inspector Cork, Phyllida takes temporary charge of the investigation, guiding the local constable through interviews with the Murder Game actors. At first, there seems no motive to want Mr. Wokesley dead . . . but then Phyllida begins to connect each of the suspects with the roles they played and the motives assigned to them. It soon becomes clear that everyone had a reason to murder their host—both in the game and in real life. Before long, Phyllida is embroiled in a fiendishly puzzling case, with a killer who refuses to play by the rules . . .