Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of Angel: A Cozy Christmas Murder

Reading Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel is a bit like being the new kid at a school where everyone has known each other for twenty-six years (it’s an extensive, graduate-degree track school, I guess). This is the thirty-eighth Mrs. Jeffries novel that author Emily Brightwell (a pseudonym) has produced. Which was stellar to learn. I have trouble working up the motivation to put away my socks, but this lady is so productive that she publishes under three different names.

Anyway, there is a huge cast of characters, and keeping track of who was who was more challenging than the mystery. Brightwell keenly kept the clues subtle until the second half of the book, when they became so heavy handed that even I picked them up (note – I’m not a natural detective). The trope of the series is that the real sleuth is a Victorian housekeeper working for a London police inspector. Mrs. Jeffries rarely steps outside, but solves the inspector’s crimes through a wide network of friends and co-workers. It is a fun and unique twist on an otherwise over-saturated era and genre. But The Alms of the Angel is not the best introduction to this series. It assumes a familiarity with the characters, which doesn’t foster a genuine attachment to them for new readers.

With all of that, the best sentence in the entire book was the first one, “darkness could conceal numerous sins, but on this December night the killer needed it to hide only one.” After a first sentence like that, how do you stop reading?