Back to top

Murder on a train

Cover of The Mitford Murders
A review of The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

Jessica Fellowes, niece of that other guy who wrote Downton Abbey, is best known for her nonfiction books about that show. Here in her debut novel, she blends fact and fiction to great effect.

The facts: Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter to the famed nurse, was attacked on a train in January, 1920 and died a few days later from her injuries. No one was ever arrested for the crime. Also fact, the Mitfords were (are) gentry in England and the sisters later become famed for being part of the "bright young things" who gadded about London in the 1920s. And the final fact, Nancy Mitford, here a teenager, later became a writer of renown.

The fiction: Louisa Cannon is a young woman living in poverty in London with her mother and an abusive uncle. When her uncle tries to force her to pay off a debt (in ways she'd rather not imagine) Louisa escapes to a job as an assistant nanny at Asthall Manor working for the Mitford family. Among the girls in the family she's tasked with caring for is Nancy, who is sixteen as the book opens. Nancy is bright, sharp and sometimes unthinkingly cruel, but she and Louisa form a bond over the death of Miss Shore. Nancy is determined to investigate.

I really enjoyed this, both for the setting, time period and the characters, and also for the mystery plot. Fellowes clearly did her research and when I finished I did a deep dive into the Mitfords who all led fairly colorful (some even fascist!) lives because I was so intrigued. Good stuff.

January 18, 2018