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Lady Montfort Mystery #2

Death Sits Down to Dinner

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Filled with deceptions both real and imagined, Death Sits Down to Dinner is a delightful Edwardian mystery set in London.

Lady Montfort is thrilled to receive an invitation to a dinner party hosted by her close friend Hermione Kingsley, the patroness of England's largest charity. Hermione has pulled together a select gathering to celebrate Winston Churchill's 39th birthday. Some of the oldest families in the country have gathered to toast the dangerously ambitious and utterly charming First Lord of the Admiralty. But when the dinner ends, one of the gentlemen remains seated at the table, head down among the walnut shells littering the cloth and a knife between his ribs.

Summoned from Iyntwood, Mrs. Jackson helps her mistress trace the steps of suspects both upstairs and downstairs as Hermione's household prepares to host a highly anticipated charity event. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson unravel the web of secrecy surrounding the bright whirlwind of London society, investigating the rich, well-connected and seeming do-gooders in a race against time to stop the murderer from striking again.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2016

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About the author

Tessa Arlen

11 books490 followers
TESSA ARLEN is the USA TODAY bestselling author of IN ROYAL SERVICE TO THE QUEEN, a novel of Marion Crawford the first royal servant to kiss and tell. Tessa writes historical fiction when she is not gardening.

For more information about Tessa and her books please visit her website. http://www.tessaarlen.com/

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 99 reviews
Profile Image for Jeannine.
575 reviews40 followers
June 25, 2022
I’ve been reading so many action-packed romps lately that the slower pace of this series is lovely. I enjoy the little nuggets of humor tucked into Lady Montfort’s and Edith Jackson’s thoughts. The slow evolution of their relationship is fascinating…the word friend got used in the closing pages!

Seeing Edith’s thoughts about station, servant behavior, and love change over the two books has been interesting. Her time at the London house is clearly setting us up to see more development in her personal life.
Profile Image for Louisa Treger.
Author 3 books83 followers
May 1, 2016
I loved Tessa Arlen’s ‘Death of Dishonorable Gentleman’, the first novel in her Edwardian Murder Mystery series. And so, I was eagerly anticipating her second: ‘Death Sits Down for Dinner.’ I was not disappointed! Like its predecessor, Arlen’s new novel has a tightly-knit compelling plot that keeps you turning pages. When a party to celebrate Sir Winston Churchill’s birthday ends in the murder of one of the guests, the unusual detective pairing of Lady Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs Jackson, reunites to solve it. The writing is gorgeous and Arlen’s evocation of the Edwardian era is perfectly wrought. She had obviously done a lot of research - there is much lovely period detail and a thorough knowledge of the many rules and snobberies of Edwardian England - but she wears it lightly, weaving it seamlessly into the story. She evokes the atmosphere of early 1900s London well: the rain, the mist rolling off the Thames, the joy of buying hot chestnuts from a street vendor on a bitterly cold day. I loved the way she incorporates some of the fascinating real-life characters of the era into her fictional narrative: Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Thomas Beecham, Vaslav Nijinsky. The story is told from the dual perspectives of Lady Montfort and Mrs Jackson: the knowledge each one gleans adds a missing piece of the puzzle, as well as giving the reader insight into the segregated worlds of upstairs and downstairs. I particularly loved the strong, sympathetic characters of Lady Montfort and Jackson: they are intelligent and observant, and good listeners. Arlen highlights an interesting challenge faced by Edwardian female amateur detectives: they must search for the murderer without breaching the rigid decorum of the period! Both women rise to it admirably. Arlen is a talented writer with an immensely generous and insightful vision. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.
Profile Image for Angie.
1,117 reviews76 followers
March 4, 2016
I thoroughly enjoyed this "sophisticated cozy" as I've termed it!

It was a delightful Edwardian mystery that all started when things went wrong at a dinner party in honor of Mr. Winston Churchill himself. A guest turned up dead and the culprit is not going to be easy to find. The characters in this book are so entertaining and quirky, and funnily enough several were real people who lived during this time! There is a great author's note at the end detailing the fact and fiction. Tessa Arlen has a gift in making her characters come vividly to life on the page. There was also an "upstairs-downstairs" feel to the book with housekeeper Mrs. Jackson helping Clementine out with the "sneaky" inquiries.

This happens to be book 2 in a series, but I didn't feel lost in any way and was able to jump right in with no problem. I look forward to reading other books by this author!! Also, great cover art!

**Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for an ARC for review purposes**
Profile Image for Annette.
1,609 reviews8 followers
March 10, 2016
Lady Montfort and her husband Lord Montfort have been invited to a dinner celebrating the birthday of the Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. Lord Montfort is not a fan of Churchill but he will attend because the wife he loves wants him to go. The dinner guests include both the nobility as well government leaders.

Hermione Kingsley, the hostess, is responsible for one of the most successful charities in the country. The Chimney Sweep Boys charity has been successful because of Hermione's continued support. Within a short time, the biggest fundraiser for the charity will be held in Hermione's home. This dinner is a sort of build up in order to get people to make their plans to come and support the charity.

At the end of dinner, the ladies leave the gentlemen to cigars and brandy. Soon everyone has come together to enjoy some music. The evening comes to a screeching halt when one of the gentlemen is discovered stabbed to death at the dining room table.

This is an entertaining story as well as being informative. Many of the cast are actual people who were influential in society and government during the Edwardian Era. We learn about real people as well as the actual events which influenced them.

This is just before World War I and some of the story is about the build up to war. Not everyone is supportive of the idea. We see politics and social ideas of the time. Some of those ideas were distressing to me. The rampant racism made me want to step back from the story. The fact that women's suffrage was considered a joke to Churchill and others was offensive to me. But, it also means the author was writing of the actual times, not what I would have wanted them to be.

Lady Montfort requests that her housekeeper, Mrs Jackson come to London from their country home in order to help with an investigation into the murder. This is the second book in the series, and the two women have investigated a murder in the past. Although this is part of a series, it works well as a stand alone.

The two women are very bright and observant. They are good listeners to what people say as well as what is left unsaid. The counsels they hold to compare notes and run through what they have learned inform the reader as well as one another. There are no surprise facts at the conclusion, but the solution comes as a surprise just as it should in a good mystery.

I liked Lady Montfort and Mrs Jackson. In fact, I liked nearly everyone in the story. No one is a perfect person. Everyone is very human. The character development is very logical as well as entertaining. The real people are as interesting as the fictional characters.

There is no question that the plot is a part of the times. In the Edwardian Era, the class system in England was a fact of life, the suffrage movement became a time when women were physically abused, imprisoned and treated as jokes, and racism was very real all over Europe and the United States.

As the story moves forward, there is more violence. It may be connected to the murder, or something else. Soon everything comes together to complete our journey.

If you enjoy British history, you will enjoy this book. If you enjoy getting to really know the characters in books you read, you will enjoy this book. If you like good writing, you definitely should enjoy this book.

This is the first book by Ms Arlen that I have read. She is a master at drawing the reader into the story with both her plot and characters. I look forward to reading the next book in this series.

I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Profile Image for Susan in NC.
912 reviews
April 30, 2016
I really enjoyed this second Edwardian mystery featuring Lady Clementine Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs. Edith Jackson. As with her first book Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, Tessa Arlen masterfully recreates the glittering, vanished world of Edwardian society and the fascinating interactions between servants belowstairs and those they serve.

This second adventure does a good job of revealing more of the character of the extremely efficient, organized and formal Mrs. Jackson; orphaned at a young age and raised in an orphanage (obviously a sad and painful time as she doesn't dwell on it even in her internal reflections), she came to Iyntwood, the Montfort country estate, as a young servant. Through her hard work and determination she has risen to the esteemed position of housekeeper at a young age, but it has taken a toll - she maintains the highest of standards and has the stiffest of upper lips! Reading of her interactions with the more relaxed (naturally), almost playful and sociable Lady Montfort is a real treat, and I love being inside Clementine's head as she tries to ease Mrs. Jackson into revealing her thoughts and ideas on their investigation.

Indeed, the scene where she first asks the housekeeper to organize a charity event at a home where a murder was committed (and of course snoop around belowstairs to further the murder investigation) was really well-done, and an interesting illustration of the contrast between Lady Montfort's enthusiasm for investigating the murder and Mrs. Jackson's instinctive reticence to be involved in anything remotely tawdry or scandalous.

The yawning class divide is ever-present but skillfully handled; Clementine has ample opportunity in this outing, set among the most elevated circles of London society, to muse over her own position in the glittering pecking order compared to the regal Marchioness of Ripon or the arch, gossipy Lady Cunard. Our Lady Montfort belongs to a more staid, horsey set and quickly finds the late nights and social whirl of London society exhausting and longs for the peace and comfort of a frosty walk with her dogs at Iyntwood. Mrs. Jackson, feeling like an interloper in the Montfort House servant's hall, walks the tightrope of being friendly and reining in her judgment of the looser, friendlier atmosphere at the London house - things are changing for all the classes, especially in the capital as rumors of coming war with Germany swirl and social roles evolve.

A fascinating and very human and enjoyable look at life before the Great War, I certainly hope Tessa Arlen writes several more books in this wonderful series. Highly recommended for fans of historical mystery and fiction.
Profile Image for Carrie Schmidt.
Author 1 book366 followers
April 1, 2016
As soon as I read the opening line of Tessa Arlen’s Death Sits Down to Dinner, I wrapped myself up in this delightfully British & dignified-cozy mystery. Bringing to mind Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Arlen has crafted a story that seamlessly blends the historic and the fictional. Sir Winston Churchill treads across the page – the murder occurs at his private birthday party, after all – and a marvelous note tacked on to the end of the book satisfies the historic-curious with insight into other real-life characters who make cameo appearances.

Some of the character names quite simply deserve to be said aloud for posterity’s sake. Marigold Meriwether. Trevor Tricklebank. Miss Biggleswade. And Gilbert Vernon Wildman-Lushington. Who, by the way, was an actual person – appointed as Churchill’s personal flying instructor in 1913.

Bottom Line: The upstairs/downstairs of Downton Abbey meets the Edwardian amateur sleuth in Tessa Arlen’s Death Sits Down to Dinner. Sophisticated and dignified Lady Montcort once again recruits her pragmatic housekeeper Mrs. Jackson to help her solve the gruesome murder of a friend’s dinner guest. Historical tidbits, along with insights into the expected etiquette belowstairs, added to the elements that make this a wonderfully entertaining read.

(I received a copy of this book in exchange for only my honest review.)
Profile Image for Martine Bailey.
Author 6 books126 followers
June 3, 2016
The second of this delightful series begins as Lady Montfort attends an elegant dinner at which one of the guests is no less than Sir Winston Churchill. It is just before Christmas 1914 in snowy London; and the sense of time and place is immediate and convincing. In the tradition of an Agatha Christie mystery, a murder takes place and all the guests are ordered to remain silent about the unfortunate event. Yet as we know, Lady Montfort has an insatiable curiosity about such matters and a mind to do some sleuthing. With great pleasure the readers sees her summon the redoubtable housekeeper Mrs Jackson to assist her, and so the investigation begins. Arlen cleverly splits the inquiry between rather buttoned-up Mrs Jackson who snoops below stairs and at the charity at the heart of the story, while her more impulsive mistress gathers gossip at the opera and around Town. There are some lovely tongue-in-cheek moments in which the manners of the day are gently sent up, and a number of the era’s celebrities make vignette appearances (with interesting character notes in the Afterword.) I thoroughly enjoyed this indulgent treat, which to my mind is even better than Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. Recommended.
Profile Image for Sharon Farrow.
Author 5 books287 followers
September 27, 2016
Upstairs meets downstairs in this wonderful second book in Tessa Arlen’s Edwardian mystery series starring Lady Clementine Montcort and her housekeeper Mrs. Jackson. It is First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill’s birthday and charity patroness Hermione Kingsley hosts a London dinner party to celebrate the event. When a man is found stabbed at the table, guests are advised to say nothing about what has occurred. But Lady Montfort is concerned that Sir Reginald’s murder may be followed by another. After enlisting the help of her housekeeper, Edith Jackson, Clementine sets out to discover what secrets are kept among the upper class, while Edith does likewise with the servants belowstairs. Arlen’s debut novel, Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, unfolded at Iyntwood, the country estate of the Montcort family and had a marvelous Downton Abby feel to it. This time the author takes the reader to snowy London a few months before the outbreak of WWI, allowing many of that era’s real life people - from Nijinsky to Caruso – to be included. Like her first book, Tessa Arlen has given us an impeccably researched historical mystery filled with fascinating characters and a riveting story. Can’t wait for Book Three of the Lady Montfort Mystery series.
Profile Image for nikkia neil.
1,150 reviews19 followers
July 12, 2016
Thanks St. Martin's Press and netgalley for this ARC.

Love this series! It's the delicious feeling of being in the know. Love hearing the inner workings of a character's thoughts and feelings. NOt all authors can do this so well and seamlessly. Can't wait for next mystery.
Profile Image for Chaitra.
3,544 reviews
April 18, 2017
Such fun. I love the characters of Clementine Talbot, the Lady Montfort and her trusty housekeeper Mrs. Jackson. This particular mystery is set in London, in which such personages as Winston Churchill, Marchioness of Ripon, Lady Cunard etc. make an appearance. I'm not overly familiar with Edwardian history, but whatever Arlen writes rings true. What particularly pleases me is the fact that Clementine and Jackson are of their time. Strong, but bound by tradition, society and prejudice. This makes their characters totally believable. They're also very sympathetic. They have their views, but there's something extremely likable about these two women. Great series.

On a side, unrelated note, one of my favorite mystery series is Hannah Dennison's Honeychurch Hall mysteries, set in a modern day manor house. The attitude towards old families is radically different, but is as fascinating as the bygone days of the great British Empire as is depicted in this series.
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,058 reviews30 followers
May 27, 2016
Review originally posted on my blog: http://www.literaryfeline.com/2016/05...

Death Sits Down for Dinner by Tessa Arlen
Minotaur Books, 2016
Crime Fiction (Historical); 320 pgs
Source: NetGalley

Tessa Arlen's series is fast becoming my favorite cozy mystery series. From the Edwardian English setting to the proper Mrs. Jackson and the ever persistent Lady Montfort, I adored the author's earlier book, and this second one was quite a delight to read too. The previous book was set in the countryside while this one was placed in London. It opens with Lady Montfort preparing to attend a birthday party for the well known Winston Churchill hosted by a close friend and patroness of one of England's largest charities. The evening does not go quite as planned when Lady Montfort stumbles on a body, a knife the obvious murder weapon.

Churchill assures everyone the best of the authorities is on the case, but Lady Montfort, despite being told to stay out of it, cannot help but insert herself into the investigation. She knows there are things her friends, London society and the servents will not share with the police even in the face of murder.

Mrs. Jackson is anything but thrilled to be pulled into another murder investigation. She would much rather keep to her housekeeping duties, and when asked to help plan a big charity event in London, she is insistent that is all she will do. Soon, however, she is lured into the investigation too. What they find are secrets upon secrets. Time is short and the body count is on the rise. The two women must work quickly to find answers and stop a killer from taking another life.

Author Tessa Arlen vividly captures the world of London's high society as well as the politics of the time. The differences between the society class and the working class were stark during that time, which is why Mrs. Jackson's role in helping with the investigation always proves to be so invaluable. And yet cultural change is definitely in the air, even if in the slightest of ways. It is an exciting time in England's history.

I could have taken issue with two amateur detectives actively investigating a murder that they really had no reason to get involved in, but I so enjoy seeing Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson in action. There is one scene in the novel in which Lady Montfort's son calls his mother out on her involvement, which I thought was well placed. Even though her son's and her perspectives may be different about why she's decided to conduct her own investigation, I appreciated the author acknowledging how it might look to any observer (reader included) in such a natural way.

As always, I enjoyed spending time with the ever sturdy and reliant Mrs. Jackson as well as the too-curious-for-her-own-good Lady Monfort. Both are rather traditional in their thinking, and while reluctant to step outside their comfort zones, they both recognize that their ways might not be the only or even the best way. I like seeing growth in characters, and both of these women demonstrate insight and intelligence throughout the novel.

Death Sits Down For Dinner is a wonderful follow-up to Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, one I enjoyed quite a bit. The mystery itself was intriguing at every turn. I look forward to reading more in this series and seeing what else Tessa Arlen comes up with.
Profile Image for Marcie.
709 reviews6 followers
May 4, 2016
My love for mysteries only goes back a few years. That is to say, I’m a newbie when it comes to this genre. I have Agatha Christie to thank for it. And really who better than the Queen of Mystery to introduce me to this genre. Agatha Christie is the gold standard that I’m sure many authors aspire to attain. However, reading her books has helped me understand what it is that makes a mystery a really great story. And for me, Death Sits Down to Dinner fits nicely in that category.

I had the good fortune last year to read Tessa Arlen’s first book in the Lady Montfrot Mystery series, Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. I was immediately taken with the heroine of the novel, Lady Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson set in Edwardian England. So when the opportunity to read this second book came up, I jumped at it. As much as I liked the first book, I think this book is even better.

Lady Clementine Montfort attends a dinner party hosted by her friend Hermione Kingsley. The party is well attended by some of the who’s who of society—including Winston Churchill. However, after dinner a murder occurs, and, of course, Lady Montfort takes up the case. Everyone who attended the party or a member of the household staff is suspect. But Lady Montfort can’t solve this murder without the help of her reluctant housekeeper. Once she convinces Mrs. Jackson, it’s only a matter of time before the mystery starts to unravel.

“After the murder of her husband’s nephew last year, Clementine had come to the understanding that any human creature, no matter how well connected, well born, or utterly trustworthy, was capable of murder if he or she was put in a position where he believed he had no other choice.”

Try as I might, I didn’t guess the murderer until it was revealed at the end. It’s probably a good thing I’m not a detective. That’s what I really like about Tessa Arlen’s books. After all the red herrings and foreshadowing the answer was staring you in the face the whole time. The clues are so subtle that if you blink, you’ll miss them.

I really enjoyed this book: the setting, the stories, the characters. Tessa Arlen has a gift for mystery and I’m so glad she’s using it. I'm highly anticipating the third book in this series, which, unfortunately, doesn't come out until next year.

Read more at http://www.toreadornottoread.net/2016...
Profile Image for Kathleen Kelly.
1,349 reviews116 followers
April 19, 2016
A Great Mystery! Death Sits Down to Dinner is the second book about amateur sleuths Lady Clementine Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs.Jackson, the first book is Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman. At a birthday party for Winston Churchill, hosted by Hermione Kingsley who is a patroness of a large charity. A death occurs at this party, a man, Sir Reginald Cholmondeley is the deceased stabbed in the chest. Clementine is the person who is first on the scene of the murder.Hermione has insisted that no one talk about the murder that happened at her dinner party, this includes all of her staff. Everyone who attended the party is questioned by Detective Inspector Hillary and as time progresses, Clementine is not too happy as to how the investigation is progressing. Hermione is to host a huge event to support England's largest charity but with the illness of her companion Adelaide, Clementine offers the services of her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson. Kill two birds with one stone if your will, Mrs. Jackson can assist with coordinating the event and snoop around to find out exactly what the staff knows. The two women are insistent on finding out who killed Sir Reginald and why.This story takes place in 1912, a tenuous time in England with the unrest that is happening not only in England but in the rest of the world. England is preparing for such an event with the development of airplanes. Winston Churchill is sure that there will be a war with Germany, as First Lord of the Admiralty he founded the Royal Navy Air Service to prepare for this event. This is an Edwardian mystery that reminded me of the show Upstairs, Downstairs, filled with real and imagined characters, upstairs and downstairs at two households. The glitter of high society in England makes this novel a treat to read. I learned one interesting fact, the women who worked in these households were called Mrs. no matter the age or whether they were married or not. The men were called John or William, as these names were easy to remember and acceptable names. I had not read the first book, Death of an Honorable Gentleman but that in no way confused me as the author made reference on a few occasions of the murder mystery that involved Lady Montfort and Mrs.Jackson. A fast paced story that was very enjoyable to me.
Profile Image for Lauralee.
Author 2 books19 followers
April 28, 2016
Death Sits Down To Dinner is a historical mystery starring Lady Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson. Lady Montfort is invited to a dinner party, hosted by her friend, Hermione Kingsley, in honor of Winston Churchill’s 39th party. The party seems to be going well, and Lady Montfort is mingling with the elite and observing the young men as potential suitors for her daughter. She also gets to see the famous Winston Churchill, whom her husband dislikes. After the dinner ends, they find that someone at the party has died. Lady Montfort is determined to see who is the murderer, and she uses her housekeeper to help solve the crime.

Both Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson are likable characters. While they are both from different social statuses, they both work towards the same goal. Therefore, they make a perfect team and they rely on each other. Mrs. Jackson is Lady Montfort’s eyes and ears with those of her social rank. As they both go about solving the crime through different social ranks, in the end this helps form a clearer picture of who the murderer is. Both of these women are smart, observant, practical, persistent, and inquisitive. Thus, they both complement each other and make for interesting sleuths.

Overall, this book was a fun mystery. I liked how this book focused on British society. I also liked delving into their secrets. I found the characters to be fun and well-developed. This book did start out slow, and it took a hundred pages to get into, however after that it was very suspenseful, and I wanted to know who the murderer was. This book for me was also hard to read for its writing is more aligned with early twentieth century. So it took me forever to finish the book because it slowed the pace of my reading down as I was trying to make sense of what the characters were saying. Nonetheless, this is a well-developed mystery. I recommend this book to fans of Agatha Christie and Edwardian literature.
(Note: I read this book as part of a blog tour in exchange for an honest review.)
Profile Image for Laura.
3,192 reviews320 followers
March 27, 2016
I recommend this book to the new generation of Downtown Abbey fans, to those who read the wonderful, classic mystery series that become Public Television favorites, and to those with a questioning mind who appreciate the nuances of history which add depth and quality to the reading experience.

Set in the Edwardian era, that fabulously exciting era of history on the brink of extreme change.
Impending war, with new technologies to consider. Established ways and households realizing their time is running out. Women expressing themselves more noticeably and much louder.
Still, the established rules and customs not giving way without struggle.

The story sets the scene by explaining who the dinner guests are and the relationships between them. While the initial dinner celebrates a well known guest of honor, that is not to say he is respected and admired by all. After the murder is discovered, the reader also learns much about the times and proper ways, much about each individual person by how they respond and carry on.
The fact that the women who investigate are from different segments of society also speaks volumes.

This book is easily read as a stand alone. I also consider it one of those wonderful novels that should be reread to catch the embedded clues and will be as exciting as the first read.
The additional information the author offers regarding actual persons of this era encourage me to delve deeper into the history of those times.

I was given a print copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
I look forward to reading more about these collaborative sleuths.
2 reviews1 follower
March 28, 2016
Death Sits Down to Dinner
Another riveting and charming collaboration of detective skills between Lady Montford and Mrs Jackson, her housekeeper, this time set in November London as the gales and gusts of the winter and the approaching war blow in and engulf the two intrepid ladies in a private murder investigation that propels them up many a strange and convoluted garden path! From the moment of the discovery of the body of a portly and distinguished guest slumped over the dining room table among the walnuts shells at a dinner party held in honor of Winston Churchill’s birthday, Lady Montford sets out to track down the killer using her housekeeper to penetrate the secrets of the unfortunate hostess’s servant’s hall while she makes discreet forays into the private lives of the illustrious guests gathered for the occasion - culminating in a breath-taking face to face encounter with the ruthless murderer.
With her exquisite eye for detail, deft hand and light touch Tessa Arlen’s mastery of the genre, period, plot and character just gets better and better - making Death Sit’s Down to Dinner another enthralling read! I read it in two wallops!
421 reviews
July 31, 2016
This was an enjoyable historical mystery set in Edwardian England. I agree with the book jacket description that this is sure to charm fans of Downton Abbey. This is the second book in the Lady Montfort Mystery series, but it can be read as a standalone. I received a copy of this book through a contest on Austenprose, and found it entertaining and easy to follow even though I have not read the first book.

This book and series centers around Lady Montfort and her housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson, who become amateur sleuths due to extenuating circumstances. In this case, a murder at a dinner party Lady Montfort attended sets the action in motion. The dinner was a birthday celebration for Winston Churchill, who is just one historical figure who appears seamlessly in this book.

The historical details, the Edwardian time period, and the unusual pairing of two women of highly different social classes as partners are some of my favorite things about this book. This is a series that should be interesting to follow.
3 reviews
March 30, 2016
I was fortunate to receive an ARC of Tessa Arlen’s Death Sits Down to Dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed her first book in this series, Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, and was even more impressed by this latest addition. Lady Montfort and Mrs. Edith Jackson continue in their amateur sleuthing, this time moving the action to Montfort House in London. Many of the same characters portrayed in the first book, both from upstairs and downstairs, are included and wonderfully depicted. The dialogue is smart and witty. While Mrs. Arlen is very deft at portraying the class distinctions, she is brilliant at weaving the political history and greater social issues of the time into the fabric of her story. Details about fashion, literature and music are also beautifully integrated. The plot is suspenseful and believable and clips along at a rapid pace. It is possible to enjoy reading Death Sits Down to Dinner without having read Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman, but why deny oneself that pleasure!
Profile Image for Sheila.
840 reviews3 followers
April 9, 2016
Four and a half stars. I really enjoyed this second in the series. I love the upstairs/downstairs pairing of Lady Montfort and Mrs. Jackson. This book was set in London, amidst all of the pre-WWI happenings, changing social mores, political tensions, etc. It featured a couple of real historical characters, including Winston Churchill, who at the time was First Lord of the Admiralty. I love how Ms. Arlen weaves fact and fiction, and does such a wonderful job incorporating political history, social structure and issues, fashion, and culture into her novels. I can't wait to read the next in the series. Write quickly, please, Ms. Arlen!!
Profile Image for Rob Williams.
1 review16 followers
May 5, 2016
Quite a fun and enjoyable murder mystery, very much in the "Downton Abbey"/"Gosford Park" mode, with more than a passing nod to Agatha Christie. Interesting characters and a murderer reveal that seems to come out of nowhere (in the best possible sense). I hadn't read the first book in the series before I read "Death Sits Down To Dinner" but I'm anxious to go back to these characters, which is a great testament to the author.
Profile Image for William.
192 reviews2 followers
April 16, 2018
This was almost a 2.5* for me. I liked it, but it spent so much time describing food and using flowery language that it became tough. The fact that it's early 1900s England kept me going. I actually think I would've loved this as a play and not a novel, idk. (But, props to the prep that the author probably had to take to write this and props for throwing me off the ending since I'm good at guessing.)
Profile Image for Patricia.
201 reviews10 followers
November 14, 2016
Books like this are depressing me right now. The Victorian mysteries where heroines fight to break loose from society's restrictions on their sex to seize power and solve crime while being gorgeous. We seem to want to rewrite history when what we need to rewrite is the present.
732 reviews6 followers
October 14, 2016
Fun book. Left me wanting to read another and I didn't even skip to the end of the book to see who was the murderer.
2,102 reviews31 followers
June 29, 2022
The Talbots were in London this time... and following the norm in the capital, they were invited to a friend's 'charity' dinner honoring the First Lord of the Admiralty's, Winston Churchill's, birthday. Lord Montfort did not like Churchill but because he loves his wife, he escorted her to said dinner that ended up into a murder. After that dreadful event, Churchill's aviator instructor and a guest of that ill~fated dinner crashed and died. Then there was the previous mysterious disappearance (before the dinner party) of the house's first footman. Meanwhile, at Harry's friend's think tank group, Sopwith's revolutionary and innovative aircraft designs were being stolen. The winds of war were forming and gaining momentum... and Harry Talbot, the only son and heir, was eager to fly to his loving parents' consternation and trepidation... it was inevitable that he would get his wings.

p.s. ~ some phrases that seem to cause a Time Warp for me, since I am of the opinion that the English were not that keen to adopt Americanisms given the Timeline and despite Hollywood movies, after WWII perhaps:
Chapter 13 ~ divvy up, American English 1877
Chapter 17 ~ keep tabs on, American English 1810
Profile Image for Kimberly Ann.
1,658 reviews
April 3, 2018
Lady Monfort & her husband are invited to the 39th birthday dinner for Sir Winston Churchill at the home of her friend Hermione Kingsley. Much to everyone's dismay one of the guests is found stabbed dead in the dining room during the evening's music recital.

Lady Monfort & her Country-House Housekeeper, Mrs. Jackson work together to find out who killed the man, with little or no cooperation from Hermione's household, as Hermione has forbidden everyone in the house from discussing the murder.

It is discovered that he was the chair of Hermione's Chimney Sweep Boy's Charity and upon further investigation that he was skimming from the charity while being blackmailed by the Matron, which points a finger at Hermione.

I liked the plot/story and I liked most of the characters.

What I found tedious was all the supposition, self-talk, and the over-abundant repetitiveness of the Red Herrings, which means I skimmed much of Lady Monfort's & Mrs. Jackson's personal thoughts.

Profile Image for Katie Bee.
981 reviews3 followers
May 24, 2021
Clementine, Lady Montfort, is at a society dinner celebrating the First Lord of the Admiralty's birthday, when one of the guests is found murdered. Now she and her indomitable housekeeper, Mrs. Edith Jackson, begin their own investigation -- who murdered Reginald Cholmondeley, and why?

Another enjoyable installment in a fun series. There were a lot of "historical cameos" in this one, most notably a young Winston Churchill, and all were handled pretty great. I'm very picky with Churchill cameos, and Arlen captured him just right.

I also really liked the way Arlen portrays the changing relationship between Clementine and Edith, and the gentle but astute eye she turns on the changing nature of domestic service in these years immediately prior to the First World War. And Clementine and Ralph's marriage is so lovely; sweet and companionable and settled, both respecting the other even when they disagree.
Profile Image for Nancy.
558 reviews
August 14, 2018
This was an engaging story, but rather off-putting due to the author's unrelenting usage of the comma splice.

I appreciated that the author provided a cast of characters at the beginning; it would have also been helpful for her to have indicated the year in which the story was taking place. Adding Winston Churchill as a character was a brilliant touch, and it was refreshing to hear unflattering opinions of him based on his early career.

If you're a Downton Abbey fan, you'll also enjoy the depictions of the upstairs/downstairs goings-on.
Profile Image for Beth.
391 reviews3 followers
January 12, 2020
For those who love to soak in the milieu of the setting and time of a novel, this series would be wonderful. The author will often spend a page or more as a character thinks through a perception or a situation or an idea that adds depth and complexity to the time period and social attitudes within the book.
Unfortunately, I am a plot-driven reader. So all that extra bit exasperates me as I just want the story to get on with it. But the main characters are enjoyable enough that I put up with it and continue reading on. And I will read the next book in the series.
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