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A BRIDE'S GUIDE TO MARRIAGE AND MURDER
by Dianne Freeman
Kensington, May 2022
293 pages
$26.99
ISBN: 1496731611


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Frances Wynn's family has been living at her London house for four very long months, or at least her mother Daisy Price has. Her father Franklin and brother Alonzo arrived just days before the ceremony. They didn't come from New York four months ago, when Frances' sister, Lily, married and went off to France. Business, you know. Daisy Price is a micro-manager from the get-to and has been making Frances' life fairly miserable in those four months. She gets a bit upset when informed that Frances has invited James O'Connor and his family to the wedding, at Alonzo's request. It seems Alonzo has a penchant for Madeline O'Connor, one that she has been encouraging. Daisy is upset because she has invited Mr. Bainbridge and his wife; they are friends of hers. The problem is the well-known feud between the two men, a feud that has at times come to blows. Of course, both families will be in attendance. What could possibly go wrong?

Mr. O'Connor is killed. Alonzo is found standing over the body with a bloody knife, the one which had been in Mr. O'Connor's back. There is motive: O'Connor has a much better match in mind for Madeline - Daniel Fitzwater, heir to the Marquis of Sudley. He has forbidden Alonzo permission to court Madeline, and may have already drawn up a marriage contract for his daughter and Daniel. Madeline isn't sure what or who she wants. When Alonzo is (temporarily, at least) exonerated, the pool of suspects widens dramatically. There is a limited window of opportunity in which the murder has to have taken place. Several people made the trip from The Earl of Harleigh's residence, where the wedding reception took place, just next door to James O'Connor's home. Some of them made the trip more than once. In the course of helping George defend Alonzo, and helping Inspector Delaney find the killer so she and George can head to Cannes, Frances learns more about some family relationships than she really wants to know, uncomfortable information that can't be ignored or kept from the police. There is another murder, again physically close to home and one that confounds in its utter lack of an obvious connection to Mr. O'Connor's death.

One hesitates to say that murder is fun, or humorous. Freeman manages to keep the seriousness of the crime in the forefront and still make a reader laugh, or at least smile, once in a while. Frances' family is just as dysfunctional as yours or mine, most likely. Her love for George, and his for her, shines brightly throughout BRIDE'S GUIDE. Much of the action takes place within a very small area of London, so the setting is much more drawing room than shops and alleyways; Freeman is quite good at conveying the small town quality of high society. The machinations of the aristocracy are as convoluted as the best politically based novel, and just as frustrating for those involved yet powerless. This is the fifth in the Countess of Harleigh mystery series. One truly hopes that more are in the pipeline.

P.J Coldren: 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 live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, June 2022

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