First we met them in a play (“Pygmalion”), then a musical (“My Fair Lady”), then a movie (“My Fair Lady” again), and now they’re in a novel. It’s Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins, bringing us back in time to Edwardian London.
Wouldn’t It Be Deadly takes place shortly after Eliza’s triumph at the Embassy Ball where, with her impeccable manners and perfect upper-class speech, she fooled London society into believing she was a duchess. Upset at Henry for taking all the credit for her success, Eliza leaves the home she has shared with him and Colonel Pickering while learning proper diction and goes to live with Henry’s mother. In order to support herself, she is giving elocution lessons at the offices of Henry’s archrival, “Professor” Emil Nepommuck.
When Nepommuck’s advertisement appears in the Daily Mail, stating that he was responsible for teaching Eliza to speak proper English, an enraged Higgins goes to Nepommuck’s offices to confront him. After an angry exchange during which both men ignore Eliza’s hard work and each congratulates himself for her achievements Higgins exits, leaving Eliza furious with the two phonetics teachers.
Tensions escalate further when Higgins puts his own advertisement into the newspapers stating that Nepommuck is a fraud and had served time in a Hungarian prison. Fearing that the exposed linguistic “professor” will flee London when he reads this, Eliza rushes back to his office to collect the two weeks’ salary she is owed. But by the time she arrives, Nepommuck has been killed, the murder weapon being one of Eliza’s own tuning forks.
The novel abounds with characters familiar to those who saw either the stage musical or the film, or both, of “My Fair Lady.” Mrs. Higgins, Henry’s mother, is present, as gracious as her son is not. Colonel Pickering is still living at Henry’s house; Eliza believes him to be the kindest man she has ever met, the one who made her wish she “had been born Colonel Pickering’s daughter.” Freddy Eynsford Hill is still in love with Eliza, and Eliza’s father, Alfred Doolittle, is now a man of means, having inherited an annuity of three thousand pounds yearly from an American admirer.
And there are new characters in the novel as well. There is Lady Gresham, a wealthy woman of a certain age who announces her engagement to Emil Nepommuck days before his murder; her butler, Harrison, handsome as a movie star; Rosalind Page, the most beautiful actress on the London stage; and Colonel Pickering’s new friend, Major Aubrey Redstone, a visitor from India who is an expert on Sanskrit poetry. It’s a mix that will lead to murder.
D. E. Ireland is the pseudonym for the writing team of Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta. Together they have fashioned a charming story that is also a captivating mystery. The main characters are true to what we know about them from the plays and the movie, but here we are given a look into what happens after Eliza is no longer a flower-seller but not yet a lady.
There are a lot more “My Fair Lady” titles for D. E. Ireland to choose from for the future books in this series. I’m looking forward to reading them all.
You can read more about D. E. Ireland at this web site.
Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.