An installment in the “Victorian Mysteries” series, “Mrs. Jeffries Takes the Cake” is the first Emily Brightwell novel I have read, but it will not be the last. I was quite taken with the premise and the characters and will return again soon.
Inspector Witherspoon is a hard-working Scotland Yard detective with a superb record for cases solved. He has received much acclaim for his amazing ability to see through to the heart of the case and solve the most difficult mysteries. What his adoring public does not realize is that the good Inspector wouldn’t know how to solve a mystery if he had a handbook. The secret of his success: Mrs. Jeffries, his housekeeper, and his cook, maids, and other household staff.
As soon as Witherspoon gets a call that trouble’s afoot, his staff goes into action. They go to the scene of the crime, they interview passersby, they talk to the domestic help in the area. Gathering clues, they find ingenious ways of slipping information to the Inspector and help him solve the mystery. The real challenge is doing it in a way that he doesn’t suspect what they’re up to.
In this volume, the father-in-law of a Member of Parliament has been murdered in his own sitting room. The clues are very few, primarily among them being a cake. The cook seizes upon this clue while the other staff members get busy interviewing all the maids and butlers who live along that street. The footman locates the missing servant from the household where the murder was committed, and the Inspector is fed the information he needs to catch the killer.
At times the book was a little repetitive. We would go with one of the characters to conduct an interview, and then hear the same information again as the character replayed it for the rest of the kitchen staff. I could have done with a little less of that. But this flaw was more than balanced by the delightful way everyone dashed around behind the Inspector’s back, making deductions for him and then letting him take all the credit. Why do they do this, you ask? First, they love to solve mysteries, and second, they love their employer. He’s honest and fair with them, and they couldn’t stand to see him embarrassed by not being able to solve a case.
This book contains just a smidge of mild language, but it is a clean mystery with much warmth and friendship. Best of all, it took me until nearly the end to figure it out, which is always a plus. I highly recommend it to anyone in search of a good read.