This debut novel by Tessa Arlen is here to rescue those impatient for the start of “Downton Abbey”. Each year, Lord and Lady Montford host their summer costume ball. This year, however, a few people end up missing by the next morning, and the hosts’ nephew Teddy (the “dishonorable gentleman” of the title), winds up hanging from a gibbet. With the help of her redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson, Lady Montford sets out to solve the mystery. Many of her guests had great reason to dislike the deceased, but with so many suspects, it’s hard to discover whose motive won out.
Filled with Edwardian historical detail and Downton-esque charm, fans of that era won’t fail to enjoy this peek into the lives of the wealthy and privileged who find themselves in a difficult spot. The research, feel, and historical accuracy are undeniably solid. The plot and characters are less so. The author has a detached tone very appropriate for the era, but this leads to rather remote characters that are rather hard to get to know. The mystery itself is not terribly suspenseful and with only a brief glance at the victim before the crime, it’s difficult to get worked up over who did him in. It’s like watching the action from a great distance. That doesn’t create an intimate atmosphere though, and when the characters and plot fail to pull a reader in, the result is a so-so story with great historical dressing.
Amazon link is here.