Life for Andrew Farthering has been an easy one. As the only son of a wealthy entrepreneur, Drew lived a comfortable country life but since the passing of his father, he was left with his widowed mother – a woman who never emotionally connected with her son, as a child, Drew became enamored with mystery novels, which instilled in him a love of solving a jolly good puzzle. His stepfather, who was a business partner with his father wishes Drew would join him in the business, however Drew has never felt totally at ease with the man. Coinciding in the aftermath of his mother scandalizing the Farthering name, trouble comes a-calling in Drew’s village – or rather right on his own estate grounds, Drew has more mystery than he could have ever wished for. With the help of his best friend, Nick and a sassy American guest, Madeline Parker, Drew and the gang search for the clues that are eluding the police only to find out murder is not just the stuff Agatha Christie novels are made of.
Some books are decent at passing time, others make it onto reader’s inevitable “best of” lists and then there are those that additionally earn the honor of a spot on avid reader’s keeper shelves (and we all know how limiting this space can be! *wink*) along with flummoxing reviewers. Rules of Murder has the distinction of the latter. Julianna Deering’s first in a trilogy series was such a charming, interesting novel that I feel quite at a loss as to how best to convey that. Co-mingling elements of classic British mysteries (think in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Marple) with sophisticated features inspired by the likes of Downton Abbey, ‘Rules’ has a snazzy narrative that isn’t one I’ll be soon to forget. One of its best assets is its strong male presence thanks to Drew. Not many books have a prominent male “voice” and in Drew, readers are rewarded with a good ‘un. He’s prominently male (and those of you who long for a male characters to be just that will totally understand what I mean) yet there is a cheeky, flirty side to him that still manages to be gentlemanly and irresistible, add in the fact that he’s through and through British, and what you are left with is golden. There is a price to pay for the strong perspective of Drew, that being the absence of his lady love, Madeline. Many readers will find fault with her rare appearances and the underdeveloped romantics. I did not – this is for two reasons.
Unlike most series, Drew and Madeline are going to be primary for three books – this is self-explanatory in the series name, which gives Deering more freedom to keep the romance in play without “showing” too much, too early. What she begins with these two leaves us wanting more, and that is excellent writing. I adored these two quintessential love birds together; from his rebuffed marriage proposals and professions of love to Madeline’s cute quips and steadfast loyalty, there couldn’t have been a better duo in this setting. The second reason I was unaffected by the whirlwind relationship was the era. Everything these two did or said to each other constantly brought to life the pictures any reader has of this era – from the dialogue to the “brash” reactions, everything fit neatly into its box, and I say this with only the highest regard, which leads straight into the authentic research Deering seems to have woven into her novel. None of the prose seemed out of place or awkward leaving a reader nothing if not impressed by the time the final page is turned – that and eager to read Death by the Book!
Before wrapping this up, I cannot exclude the excellent mystery qualities. The surprise isn’t so much who the man behind the mayhem is, as the body count. Great Gatsby! That was something quite unexpected as the number of deaths tallies up to five if memory is serving me correctly, instead of keeping the perpetrator in the shadows (or at least in the latter parts of the book when one can make an educated guess), what he gets away with is the real surprise. Fortunately, Julianna does everything for a purpose, making nothing about this book “useless” in any form. And if there is one thing that is a sure thing here, it’s a sparkling good time – from secondary characters (like Nick whom I also loved) to the mentions of motor cars, there’s never tedious moment. Like a fellow reviewer boasted, anyone who enjoyed ‘Rules’ is going to be beyond eager for more adventures from Drew & Company; if its impending sequel is anything like this novel, count me in!
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Synopsis: Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.
Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game
Coming Next from Julianna Deering: Drew Farthering wants nothing more than to finish out the summer of 1932 with the announcement of his engagement to Madeline Parker. Instead, he finds himself in the middle of another murder case. The family lawyer has been killed, a cryptic message stuck to the body with an antique hatpin. Drew is content to leave solving this one to the police, but when the dead man’s widow asks for his assistance, he can’t help but be pulled in.
Life at home is just as troubling. Madeline still hasn’t decided whether she will accept his proposal of marriage, and worse, her formidable maiden aunt, Ruth Jansen, appears at Farthering Place with the sole objective of convincing Madeline to return to America.
When a second murder occurs, and another baffling message secured with a hatpin is found at the scene, the village of Farthering St. John is thrown into a tizzy. And it seems Drew and Madeline and their friend, Nick Dennison, are the ones who will have to crack the case before the Hatpin Murderer strikes again. – February 2014
Sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of this book for reviewing purposes.