A Yuletide dinner in West Brompton should have been a festive occasion, until the host, wealthy Stephen Whitfield, dropped dead before the second course. Now Mrs. Jeffries and the busy sleuths must rally in support of their Inspector?especially since the clues are harder to find than a silver sixpence in a plum pudding.
Brightwell's unobtrusive 23rd Victorian historical mystery (after Mrs. Jeffries and the Best Laid Plans) adds a dash of holiday spirit to the adventures of Insp. Gerald Witherspoon and his housekeeper, Mrs. Jeffries. At the height of the Christmas season, Witherspoon is called in when Stephen Whitfield, a member of the upper class, is poisoned by foxglove slipped into his wine. Jeffries's below-stairs crew of irregulars track down those who were present when the fatal drink was poured, collecting rumors and gossip concerning the dead man and his family and friends. They soon find that Whitfield belonged to a tontine (an investment group where the last one alive collects the dead members' contributions) whose membership has been steadily dwindling. The writing lacks the wit of other Victorian series, such as Peter Lovesey's Sergeant Cribb novels, and the characters often border on clich , but readers looking for a light diversion will be satisfied.