A Trace of Poison

Kensington. (Phyllida Bright, Bk. 2). Oct. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781496732477. $26. M
Cambridge balances Downton Abbey–style period charm with a tight plot that twists and turns right until the end, with utter believability. The village of Listleigh’s Murder Club, a group of aspiring detective novelists, host a Murder Fête, a fundraiser whose guests include local celebrity Agatha Christie and other members of the real-life Detection Club (G.K. Chesterton and Dorothy L. Sayers). The event will culminate in naming the winner of a mystery-writing contest guaranteeing publication in Britain and the States. But when the local who was to announce the contest winner is poisoned at the opening-night cocktail party, Christie’s housekeeper, Phyllida Bright, is drawn in to investigate. In Cambridge’s winning second entry in this series (after Murder at Mallowan Hall), Mrs. Bright finds a sparring and detection partner in Bradford, the new chauffeur with an unexpected knowledge of poisons; their rapport sets the stage for further development. The real-life historical players make only brief cameos, but Cambridge creates such a compelling cast of fictional characters that they are hardly missed.
VERDICT Reminiscent of Jessica Ellicott’s “Beryl & Edwina” series, this novel will please readers with its historical world and a plot that would satisfy Poirot.
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