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A Death by Any Other Name: A Mystery (Lady Montfort Mystery Series) (edition 2017)

by Tessa Arlen (Author)

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95950,433 (3.33)1
Member:Kris_Anderson
Title:A Death by Any Other Name: A Mystery (Lady Montfort Mystery Series)
Authors:Tessa Arlen (Author)
Info:Minotaur Books (2017), 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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A Death by Any Other Name: A Mystery (Lady Montfort Mystery Series) by Tessa Arlen

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Wow, I made a lot of notes and highlights on this book – over 100. As I say all the time, this is either a sign of a good book or a terrible one.

They always warn not to quote from an ARC without checking against the published work – so I did. I was horrified by the comma abuse in the book, so I checked. And unfortunately, it's still there. "Clementine smiled at the thought of her grandsons, it had been nearly six months since she had last seen them." Run-on sentences, comma splices, all the usual things that make my eyes burn – it all appears to be unchanged from the Netgalley proof. It's a little shocking that no one at what I thought was a pretty solid publisher got a handle on this nonsense. It ranges from the annoying ("he ate an entire dish of lampreys or what we would call eels" or "Good afternoon, I am Mrs. Jackson, you asked for me?") to the unreadable ("Clementine blessed her husband's unruffled and farsighted view, and his ability to put a firm foot down where Althea's gadding-about was concerned and only prayed that her cousin Clarendon had the strength of character not to be persuaded otherwise by their strong-minded daughter." Wut?)

A good editor taking some time to make this more readable would have rebuilt sentences like "Etienne is a generous man about how much time his wife spends with us." Or, oh Lord, like "She relaxed, he was onboard then, but there would be a stipulation, of this she was quite sure." Or "Clementine was not only too happy to answer his every question but with as much detail as she could provide." Or "She felt quite uncomfortable by this outward expression of emotion." (Felt uncomfortable by - ?) Or " I know the kedgeree was not spoiled it could not possibly have been…" Or … so many more. The writing was demanding only in that it took some unraveling now and then to figure out not what was being said but what the author was trying – and failing to say.

When it didn't border on gibberish, it could be awfully laborious. In one paragraph, someone was startled by a man's sudden appearance, and jumped. Done well, this moment could be as startling to the reader as to the character – but not the way this was written, where it took three sentences.

It feels very broken-record-ish to add that there are also moments where the language felt wrong for this period mystery. "I don’t want you to get steamed-up" – why is there a hyphen, and why not find a solidly non-anachronistic way of saying "don't get angry" (like "don't get angry")?

"…Rum cove."
"I have never quite understood what that meant," she said.
"It means that he is a bit of a rogue…"

- No, it doesn't.

I wonder how one is supposed to pronounce the name of the home of Lady Montfort, Iyntwood. It's so awkward in print – it made for a stutter every time I hit the word in my reading.

Unsurprisingly, there are other problems. There are two main characters, "Lady Montfort and her redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Jackson", and the author thinks nothing of head-hopping between them. Actually, one note I made was on what I called a head LEAP. Reading good writers, I never had a problem with this habit so many writing guides warn against; a good writer can, will, and does give you enough information to know whose thoughts you're supposed to be reading at any given time. Tessa Arlen does not have that skill, and I lost count of how many times I had to reread a paragraph or a page because the point of view switched without warning from Lady to housekeeper. (This might - might - be at least partly down to Kindle formatting issues – but I don't think so.) Even within the same point of view there were inconsistencies that were annoying – one moment it was "Lady Montfort", and then in the next paragraph she was referred to as "Clementine" (it took me some time to figure out who the hell Clementine was the first couple of times it happened). This might have been a good way to differentiate the points of view – when it was with her, she could be called by name, in the housekeeper's POV sections called by her title – but no.

And of course it was repetitious. When someone was attacked midway through, the story was told over and over, ad nauseam. I think I know why – there was a detail that the intrepid sleuths, and the determined reader, was supposed to pick up on. In fact, I did pick up on the detail – but I thought it was yet another poor choice of words by the author. Another aspect of this was over-use of words; "lovely" was used thirty-two times, usually in the same context.

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to like Clementine/Lady M or not. I think I am. But I don't. She's a bully. "Did [Mrs. Jackson] mind being involved in her inquiries? She had fleetingly pondered this before." Only fleetingly, of course – what possible difference would it make if Mrs. Jackson objected? She was the help.

Since the book was largely about the breeding of roses, I would have rather expected to come away with a bit more knowledge about the subject than I had going in. This didn't happen.

I'm genuinely surprised I didn't rage-quit when I came across "a small flair of anger". (I just checked – it's in the final text.)

Or when the outbreak of WWI was referred to as "what a tempest in a teapot".

Or when "chaffing" dishes were mentioned. (That's still in as well.)

All this complaining accounts for maybe half my notes – and makes me wonder why on earth I gave this thing two stars. Reading over the run-on sentences I saved has been awful – how on earth did I finish this thing, and why? I'm knocking a star off, and will be avoiding this author like the plaguiest plague.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review. ( )
  Stewartry | May 24, 2017 |
Just some brief notes about this one. I picked it up from NetGalley in exchange for a review - it sparked my interest because it was a British mystery, my favorite kind. It is set just before WWI and is the 3rd in the Lady Montfort series.

Edith Jackson, the Montfort's housekeeper, has just returned to the Montfort's main residence, Iyntwood, after a vacation, when the former cook of Hyde Castle and sister of the Montfort dairyman, seeks her help. Mrs. Armitage was let go as the cook at Hyde Castle because one of the guests died after eating a breakfast of kedgeree, which was made especially for him. Mrs. Armitage swears there was nothing wrong with the food and is backed by the butler of Hyde Castle who suggested that she consult Mrs. Jackson and Lady Montfort. Mrs. Jackson seems to be tired of dealing with mysteries, but Lady Montfort is intrigued and manages to get an invitation to Hyde Castle. Hyde Castle is owned by the nouveau riche Haldanes. Mrs. Haldane is a member of the Hyde Rose society, and so was the deceased - Mr. Bartholomew. At first, it seems that the police were correct, and it was just food poisoning, but Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson soon suspect murder.

I found this book more enjoyable than I expected it to be. For a historical novel, I felt it kept true to the period. The mystery was well-developed and believable, as was the solution. There were clues all the way throughout leading to the solution of the mystery. The author gave some insights into Mrs. Jackson and Lady Montfort during the book - much more than an Agatha Christie, but quite a bit less than Elizabeth George or Deborah Crombie. I think this author's books are as good as some of the popular current mystery writers - such as Laura Childs or Joanne Fluke.

While it is the 3rd in the series, it definitely could be read as a standalone. There were a few mentions, I believe, of the prior book(s), but that didn't interfere with my understanding or enjoyment of this book. I didn't really care for the title, but I do understand why the author chose it.

I would certainly read more by this author, just to see if her other books held up to this one. A Death by Any Other Name would make a good beach read for someone who likes mysteries - it's a fun book. ( )
  rretzler | Apr 30, 2017 |
To be reviewed of at fresh Fiction! ( )
  MaraBlaise | Apr 14, 2017 |
I fell in love with Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson a few years ago in Tessa Arlen's first novel, Death of a Dishonerable Gentleman. They seemed to be the perfect duo to solve mysteries. Right up there with Holmes and Watson. Lady Montfort has a keen mind and feels a duty to right certain wrongs. Mrs. Jackson takes pleasure in working for an illustrious family. Though she thinks Lady Montfort shouldn't really get involved in other people's affairs, she'd do anything to help her. And, of course, Mrs. Jackson's acute attention to detail makes her a valuable asset to Lady Montfort.

A Death By Any Other Name begins with a distraught, dismissed cook coming to Lady Montfort's home. The cook was dismissed after a guest died from food poisoning. She enlists the help of Lady Montfort who could turn her away. With the help of Mrs. Jackson, the two women visit the cook's previous residence to help clear her name with the guise of being rose enthusiasts. Once there, they soon discover that many of the guests have motives to want the gentleman, who may have died from food poisoning, dead. Not only is there a delicious murder to solve, the novel takes place on the cusp of the first world war.

Even though this is the third book in the Lady Montfort Mystery series, you could absolutely read this as a standalone. Though, I will warn you, once you read this book you won't rest until you've read them all. I had no sooner finished A Death By Any Other Name before I was checking to see when the fourth book would be available. So you see, it's clearly addictive. There are so many reasons I love this series: great characters, great plot, the time period, and, of course, there's nothing like a good whodunit. I can't wait to see what Arlen has in store for her characters in the fourth book.

Read more at http://www.toreadornottoread.net/2017/03/review-death-by-any-other-name.html#Gzx... ( )
  mt256 | Apr 3, 2017 |
A Death by Any Other Name by Tessa Arlen is the third book in the Lady Montfort Mystery series. Mrs. Edith Jackson has just returned to Iyntwood (the house where she is the housekeeper) after a ten-day vacation. Mrs. Jackson loves her job except for Lady Montfort’s new habit of involving herself in other’s problems (and she always manages to drag Mrs. Jackson in with her). Mrs. Jackson is told there is a woman at the backdoor requesting to speak with her. It is Beryl Armitage, the sister of Walter, the dairyman on the estate. Beryl needs Lady Montfort assistance with a problem. Five months prior Beryl had been let go from her position as cook at Hyde Castle. A guest, Mr. Bartholomew, had died unexpectedly, and it was blamed on tainted dish of kedgeree. Beryl knows the dish was fine when she sent it up to the dining room. She had sampled the dish herself. Beryl would like Lady Montfort to look into the case and clear her name. She has been unable to get a job since she was fired because she has no reference. Mrs. Jackson feels compelled to take the case to Lady Montfort. Clementine (Lady Montfort) wants to help Mrs. Armitage and quickly arranges a visit to Hyde Castle. She has the perfect reason to visit with renowned flower expert, Miss Jekyll. Mrs. Maud Haldane has created the Hyde Rose Society and the members are currently staying at Hyde Castle. The group welcomes a chance to speak with the renowned Miss Jekyll. Clementine, Miss Jekyll, and Mrs. Jackson head off to Hyde Castle. Lady Montfort hopes to get the bottom of Mr. Bartholomew’s death with the help of Mrs. Jackson. Can this duo clear Beryl Armitage’s name and bring Mr. Bartholomew’s killer to justice?

A Death by Any Other Name is the third book in the series, but can easily be read alone. The author provides readers with the necessary details to understand and read the story. Lady Montfort is a delightful character. I like her spirit, intelligence, and desire to help others. It is wonderful that her husband endorses her pursuits. The story is set in August of 1914 just as war is about to break out in Europe. A time of great change for England. I appreciated the setting and time period. The author did a good job at capturing the history and how people behaved in the big houses of England. I give A Death by Any Other Name 3 out of 5 stars. I did feel that the pace of the novel was lethargic and the novel was too long in length (it really needed to be shortened). I found information about the case to be repeated throughout the story as well as a few other details. The mystery was complex and the author provides several suspects (any one of them could have done the deed). I liked the method of murder and how the killer achieved it. The writing style was a little formal which made the book hard to get into and enjoy. I believe the idea and characters have potential. The book just needs a less stilted/stuffy writing style. ( )
  Kris_Anderson | Mar 19, 2017 |
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