Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Murder at Mallowan Hall - Historical Mystery Series

 Goodreads:  Murder at Mallowan Hall (Phyllida Bright Mystery #1) by Colleen Cambridge

Rating: Liked It 
Source:   Publisher

Description:  Tucked away among Devon's rolling green hills, Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright, as efficient as she is personable, manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses...

The manor is home to archaeologist Max Mallowan and his famous wife, Agatha Christie. Phyllida is both loyal to and protective of the crime writer, who is as much friend as employer. An aficionado of detective fiction, Phyllida has yet to find a gentleman in real life half as fascinating as Mrs. Agatha's Belgian hero, Hercule Poirot. But though accustomed to murder and its methods as frequent topics of conversation, Phyllida is unprepared for the sight of a very real, very dead body on the library floor...

A former Army nurse, Phyllida reacts with practical common sense--and a great deal of curiosity. It soon becomes clear that the victim arrived at Mallowan Hall under false pretenses during a weekend party. Now, Phyllida not only has a houseful of demanding guests on her hands--along with a distracted, anxious staff--but hordes of reporters camping outside. When another dead body is discovered--this time, one of her housemaids--Phyllida decides to follow in M. Poirot's footsteps to determine which of the Mallowans' guests is the killer. With help from the village's handsome physician, Dr. Bhatt, Mr. Dobble, the butler, along with other household staff, Phyllida assembles the clues. Yet, she is all too aware that the killer must still be close at hand and poised to strike again. And only Phyllida's wits will prevent her own story from coming to an abrupt end...

Genre: Mystery - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:  I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan so how could I resist the first in a new series featuring her housekeeper?  

My Impression:   The start of a new series can be a bit rough as not only does the mystery have to occur and be solved but the characters have to be introduced and the setup has to be explained.  As often happens it slowed the pace in this book quite a bit.  There are a lot of characters.  Not only is there a relatively substantial staff but there is also a house party in progress with a number of guests.  Since Phyllida doesn't know them personally I had a hard time keeping them all straight.

As well Phyllida's investigation style sometimes made me inwardly cringe.  She's so sure that she knows better than the police and doesn't hesitate to keep information to herself until she has investigated or to insert herself into the investigation.  She's also very quick to judge a situation or a person and has no issue making her opinion known.

That said I did enjoy this one.  Phyllida is an interesting flawed character and there are definitely secrets flitting about in her past.  Using Agatha Christie as a sounding board to the investigation without having the famed mysteryauthor take an active role was brilliant and enjoyable.  As well I was kept entertained and reading as the investigation took shape.  While I didn't love this book as much as I wanted to love it I think this series could have a lot of promise and I'm curious to see what Phyllida does next.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author? Yes, I'm curious to see how this series evolves.

Would I Recommend this Book? I would - especially for Christie fans or fans of upstairs/downstairs mysteries. 

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *


  1. Glad you enjoyed this. It sounds like a great start to a new series.

  2. It certainly is a clever move to start a series with the fictional housekeeper of Agatha Christie.

  3. I like how it starts from your review. Haven't seen this book yet. Also I love the old typewriter on the cover. Kids these days wouldn't know what it was!

  4. I have been curious about this one. I sometimes have trouble if there are too many characters to keep track of but it sounds like it would be worth a try.

  5. I have wondered about this book and am glad you shared your thoughts. Interestingly enough, there's another book set at Agatha Christie's house during WWII by Lori Rader Day. It's called DEATH AT GREENWAY and involves a mystery and also the fact that children were evacuated from London to the house during that time. If you don't know about that one you might check it out. I'm planning on trying it in upcoming months and I'll keep this one in mind.

  6. It sounds like there is a lot to like, but also a lot to make you cringe. Great review!

  7. Sounds like a fun premise for a series, even if the execution isn't always great. Like Kay, I recently read DEATH AT GREENWAY. Interesting that there's so much being written right now about Agatha Christie.

  8. I have been wanting to read this one! I'm glad to hear your thoughts on it. I wonder if Phyllida's investigative approach will improve in subsequent books? I do like the idea of Agatha Christie as a side character, though.