Lady Hardcastle, a widow in her forties, has bought a house in the country and retired there with her lady's maid, Florence Armstrong, in 1908. The narrative voice is Armstrong's, and she comments several times that Lady Hardcastle has promised that they will have a quiet life in the country.
Aside from the fact that any lead character in a work of fiction should know those are the Words of Doom, it also raises the question of what kind of life they had prior to this. We quickly gather that it was not an endless round of balls and dinner parties in London, but the outlines of the real situation emerge gradually over the course of the story. It's rather a strong hint, though, that when the two women discover a dead man hanging from a tree, far from having hysterics, they quickly notice, and politely point out, details that the local constabulary, when called to the scene, were in danger of overlooking.
Lady Hardcastle is the widow of a knight who served in the Foreign Office, and whose duties took him as far afield as China, where he died. Armstrong grew up in a circus family, and some of her skills come from that upbringing. Their familiarity with dead bodies, weapons other than knives, and situations of extreme danger, on the other hand, have an even less mundane explanation.
The two friends--because they are friends, and act like it in defiance of custom--quickly find themselves investigating not one, but two murders, as well as the theft of a valuable emerald from a neighboring gentry family. With one of the murder victims being a member of the local cricket team, and the other a trumpet player in the band hired to perform at the engagement party for the daughter of the aforementioned gentry family, it's clear these cases can't be related, right?
This is a lively, interesting, enjoyable mystery. Kinsey keeps us guessing, without cheating the reader, and gives us characters who are well worth spending time with. The narrator, Elizabeth Knowelden, is also excellent, and adds to the enjoyment of the story.
I bought this audiobook.