Ellie Haskell is distraught to hear that her cleaning woman, Mrs. Malloy, is leaving her. It turns out that Mrs. Malloy is going to stay in London with her son and his wife, who need her help with the baby. Ellie doesn’t know what she’ll do without Mrs. Malloy, who is more of a friend than a housekeeper, but she bravely decides to ask one of Mrs. Malloy’s friends to come take her place.
When Mrs. Large arrives, Ellie finds that she is, truly, very large. She’s also very clumsy and breaks a valued item in the Haskell house. She seems to be upset about something, but Ellie never has a chance to find out what it might be. When she goes to a neighborhood meeting the next day, she finds the body – Mrs. Large was apparently dusting on a stepladder, lost her footing, and fell.
Something just doesn’t sit right about that, though. The deceased had placed a call to another cleaning woman in the area, saying that she felt uncomfortable about something. All Ellie’s detecting instincts go into hyper drive as she contemplates what it all could mean, and when yet another cleaning woman turns up dead, and shortly thereafter, another one, Ellie realizes that she has to do something.
Meanwhile, beloved gardener Jonas is starting to fail, and Ellie doesn’t know how she’ll ever live without him. Between exercising her little gray cells and trying to comfort Mrs. Malloy, she worries about Jonas and the hole he will leave in their family when he goes.
Joining forces with Mrs. Malloy in an attempt to roust out the villain, Ellie dons an apron and arms herself with a bottle of homemade housecleaning formula from a recipe she found in the attic, all set to join the ranks of the domestic. She takes along her husband, Ben, not only for his elbow grease but for protection. But in her one unguarded moment, she discovers who’s behind it all, and she nearly becomes a victim herself.
A lighthearted comedy set in the English countryside, you’ll enjoy this cozy mystery.
(This book was published in 1998 by Viking Penguin.)