When a dinner party turns deadly, the feisty Lady Cecilia Bates and intuitive cat Jack are on the case, in this first entry to an exciting new historical-mystery series.
England 1912. Danby Hall is the only home Lady Cecilia Bates has ever known. Despite the rigid rules of etiquette and her mother the Countess of Avebury's fervent desire to see her married off, Lady Cecilia can't imagine life anywhere else. But now, with an agricultural depression sweeping the countryside, the Bates family's possession of the hall is suddenly in peril.
A possible solution arrives in the form of the imperious American heiress Annabel Clarke. The Earl and Countess of Avebury are determined that Cecilia's brother, Patrick, will win Annabel's hand in marriage—and her fortune along with it. To help the lackluster Patrick in this pursuit, the Bates and their staff arrange a grand house party upon the heiress's arrival.
When a guest dies after sipping from a glass meant for Annabel, it's clear the Bates have a more poisonous problem on their hands than a lack of chemistry. As the scandal seizes Danby, Cecilia sets out to find the culprit, with help from Annabel's maid, Jane, and Jane's curiously intelligent cat, Jack.
After the poison that someone had stashed away inside the manor is discovered, Cecilia is left with two possibilities: Either a resident of Danby snapped and tried to kill the arrogant heiress, or the threat is coming from one of their guests, who would love to see the Bates family's decline become permanent.
Set in 1912, the pseudonymous Casey's solid first novel and series launch focuses on the plight of Lord and Lady Avebury, who are near financial ruin: the only way to save their beloved Yorkshire estate, Danby Hall, is for their shy, botanist son, Patrick, to marry Annabel Clarke, an American heiress. The Countess of Avebury invites Annabel and a host of distinguished guests to a grand weeklong event, which includes a garden party, archery, and croquet, and a masquerade ball to help seal the engagement. During a formal dinner, the fatal poisoning of a celebrated explorer upsets everyone at Danby Hall and threatens Patrick's marriage prospects. Annabel's American maid, Jane Hughes, befriends Lady Cecelia Bates, Patrick's feisty 19-year-old sister, and together, with the help of Jane's cat, Jack, they set out to solve the murder. Jack plays a key role in the mystery's resolution. Casey portrays an appealing aristocratic world, though some readers will struggle to keep track of the large cast of lords and ladies. Downton Abbey fans will look forward to the sequel.