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by Dianne Freeman
Kensington, July 2019
277 pages
ISBN: 1496716906

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Lady Frances Wynn has become reasonably comfortable around Inspector Delaney, due to her previous involvement in a murder inquiry. She is, however, surprised when he visits her out of the blue, and asks her about the source of some information she doesn't want publicized. It was found in the home a recently murdered woman, a woman Frances was encouraging a family member to court. The cousin, Charles Evingdon, has just informed Frances that he and Mary Archer will not suit but won't say why. Inspector Delaney focuses on Charles as his prime suspect, so Frances now has two reasons to investigate: to clear Charles and to find out how Mary got the details of private family legal hassles. All of this while her sister Lily is pushing to announce her engagement (with as big a party as one can assemble during the summer in London) to Leo Kendrick.

Lady Frances has a next-door-neighbor, George Hazelton, who has an amorphous connection to nebulous powers-that-be; these connections are intervening in Inspector Delaney's case in that they want George to go through all the paperwork found in Mary Archer's home so that he may pull anything possibly connected to those with power. George, for reasons of his own, asks Frances (and thus members of her household) to help with this task. A daunting one, as not all the papers are as definite in their references as the one about Lady Frances. However, it is Lily's friend Lottie who makes the connection between Mary Archer and the Miss Information gossip column in a local paper. This complicates all levels of the investigation, for all the parties involved.

GOSSIP AND MURDER is the second in the Countess of Harleigh series. It is well plotted, and the story moves right along. The peripheral characters, both the new ones and the recurring ones, are believable and entertaining. The timing, London during the summer, works well for Freeman in that her characters can move about fairly easily, as well as minimizing the number of people who are reasonable as suspects. The romantic tension between Lady Frances and George Hazelton is still there, and causes Lady Frances more than a little confusion. George is quite good at sending mixed messages. Lady Frances has grown, as a character, enough to call him on this by the end of the novel. His response almost ensures that there will be a third entry in the series. One can only hope.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, June 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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