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Posts Tagged ‘1930s England’

AN ACT OF VILLAINY by Ashley Weaver: Book Review

Once again I am green with envy reading about Amory Ames and her life in 1930s London.  Amory is the beautiful, smart, wealthy heroine of several mysteries by Ashley Weaver, and her life sounds almost perfect to me.  The caveat almost has to be used because her marriage to Milo has always been somewhat “iffy” due to his less-than-monogamous behavior.  But that seems to be in the past, and in An Act of Villainy the Ameses seem to be a happy, loving couple.

While leaving a West End theater one night, Amory and Milo are greeted by Gerard Holloway, a friend of Milo’s.  Gerard is a wealthy man who has just written his first play, The Price of Victory, and it is about to open.  In addition to being the play’s author, he is also producing (read financing) and directing it, so obviously he has a lot at stake in its success.

During their very brief conversation outside the theater, Amory innocently asks Gerard about his wife, a woman whom Amory greatly admires.  After Gerard rather tepidly says that “she’s quite well,” he moves off and Milo looks quizzically at his wife.  Didn’t you know, he asks her, that his new play’s leading lady is his mistress?

The next day Milo meets Gerard at the latter’s club for a drink, and Gerard confides that Flora Bell, his paramour, has been receiving threatening anonymous letters at the theater.  Knowing of the Ameses’ past successes in solving mysteries, the playwright asks them to attend his play’s dress rehearsal to see if they notice anyone behaving in a guilty manner, and Milo now puts the matter before his wife.

Amory agrees to go to the rehearsal, although she is upset with Gerard’s philandering.  As she says to her husband, “this seems a minor matter” because if someone really wanted to harm the actress they would hardly warn her beforehand.  In this, however, Amory couldn’t be more wrong.

Ms. Weaver has written another beguiling novel that bring today’s reader back nearly one hundred years to a social set and time quite different from our own, or at least from mine.  Amory has a lady’s maid, Milo has a chauffeur, afternoon tea is a ritual, and they have three homes.  It’s a charming fantasy life to read about, but there’s an excellent mystery here as well.

I often wonder how authors can write a novel about a time and place in which they never lived.  Ms. Weaver, as far as I can tell from brief biographical notes I’ve read, has never lived in England; in fact, she is a librarian in Louisiana.  But her fertile imagination and creativity will make you believe that, in a former life, she was a member of London high society.

You can read more about Ashley Weaver at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.






A first for my blog–two mysteries by the same author reviewed at one time.  I read Murder At The Brightwell a few weeks ago and planned to blog about it; then I read Death Wears A Mask, the second novel in the series, last week.  I have a policy of not writing about two books by the same author within a year, since I want to introduce readers to as many authors as possible, but this time it seems only logical to feature these two books in a single post.

Murder At The Brightwell is a delightful romp through 1930s upper class London society via the person of Amory Ames.  As the novel opens, Amory’s husband, Milo, whom she loves and hates in equal measure, has just returned from two months away with nary a word of explanation.  Unfortunately Amory is used to this behavior, as well as being used to seeing his photo appear with disheartening regularity in the society columns of various tabloids.

Minutes after Milo’s return, the Ames’ butler announces a visitor.  It’s Gil Trent, Amory’s former fiancé. The two had been engaged for a month when Amory met Milo, broke off the engagement, and married Milo.  She hasn’t seen Gil in the five succeeding years, but he has come to ask a favor.

He tells Amory that his younger sister, Emmeline, has gotten engaged to Rupert Howe, whom Gil is certain is no good.  He wants Amory to go to the Brightwell hotel with him and try to convince his sister that her fiancé is not the right man for her.  Amory has met Rupert and knows that his good looks and charm are uncannily similar to Milo’s; perhaps, indeed, she will be able to persuade Emmeline that the man is all surface, no substance.

Deciding that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, Amory refuses to tell Milo where she is going, only that she is leaving the next day on a trip.  Correctly deducing that this somehow involves Gil, Milo offers some advice.  “Leave me if you must, darling.  But don’t go crawling back to Trent, of all people.  Surely you must have some pride.”  And Amory’s sad answer is, “I have been married to you for five years, Milo.  How much pride can I possibly have left?”  So off she goes to do what she can to help her former boyfriend, never thinking that this trip will end with a murder.

In Death Wears A Mask, Serena Barrington, a friend of Amory’s parents, comes to her for help in finding out who has stolen several of her valuable jewels.  A dinner party is arranged for Amory to meet the suspects, but no one there seems likely to be the thief.  A masked ball at the home of one the dinner guests, Viscount Dunmore, a few days later will include these same guests as well as many others members of London society, so a trap is laid by Serena and Amory in an attempt to catch the thief there.  However, everything goes awry when one of the guests at the ball, who was also at the Barrington dinner, is found murdered.

I would use the word frothy to describe Ashley Weaver’s books, but that would be doing them a disservice.  Although they are far from hard core mysteries, each one has a believable plot, witty dialog, and a delightful heroine.  Indeed, I found myself wishing I could be Amory Ames for a while, or at least visit her in one of the three beautiful homes that she and Milo have.  Murder At The Brightwell and Death Wears A Mask are two terrific introductions into a beguiling new series.

You can read more about Ashley Weaver at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.