Friday, March 17, 2017

"A Death by Any Other Name"

Tessa Arlen, the daughter of a British diplomat, had lived in or visited her parents in Singapore, Cairo, Berlin, the Persian Gulf, Beijing, Delhi and Warsaw by the time she was sixteen. She came to the U.S. in 1980 and worked as an H.R. recruiter for the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Olympic Games, where she interviewed her future husband for a job. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

Arlen applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Death by Any Other Name, the third book in her Lady Montfort mystery series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“In my opinion, Mrs. Jackson, our wonderful old traditions and our great families are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. I dread to imagine the future. Being in service is certainly not the same as it used to be in the old days, especially if we work for the likes of Mr. Haldane.”

Good grief, thought Mrs. Jackson, it doesn’t get more honest or outspoken than that. She felt her cheeks color. There was a palpable animosity radiating from the butler. His face was without expression, but his eyes were blazing with the intensity of his meaning. She felt quite uncomfortable by this outward expression of emotion. In all her working life she had never heard an upper servant be quite so contemptuous of his master in such a dramatic manner. Why does he continue here if he dislikes his employer so much? Good butlers are hard to come by it would be easy for him to find another place.

“Mrs. Armitage did not use tainted fish in her kedgeree, Mrs. Jackson I can assure you of that. She is a careful and conscientious woman and took pride in her work. Mr. Bartholomew was maliciously poisoned by someone staying in this house on the day he died; I am quite convinced of it. Mrs. Armitage was used as a scapegoat by someone callous and unprincipled enough to ruthlessly eliminate someone he called his friend. The doctor’s death certificate was a cooked-up lie and the inquest was a sham. And as a result a hard-working woman was accused of being so slovenly in her work that she caused a man’s death.” To Mrs. Jackson’s acute discomfort the butler’s demonstrated his outrage: his eyebrows had practically disappeared into his hairline, his arms were stretched out on either side of him palms upwards as if he were appealing to higher authority than the British legal system.
Page 69 for A Death by Any Other Name offers an amusing glimpse into the book’s secondary theme, the complex relationships between men and women in service to the privileged members of Edwardian society in 1914, and in particular the snobbery of upper servants which reflected the great class divide between the aristocracy and self-made men.

Mrs. Jackson, amateur sleuth and the housekeeper to the Earl of Montfort, is deeply shocked when Mr. Evans, the butler of the house she is visiting, has no problem whatsoever in describing his nouveau riche master in less than flattering terms, even going so far as to almost accuse him of being a murderer who has unscrupulously framed his cook for accidentally poisoning one of his guests!

It was well-accepted that Edwardian servants were often far greater snobs than the people they served, especially those who worked for the aristocracy. Mr. Evans now butler to the uncouth Roger Haldane of Hyde Castle had at one time worked for people he would have referred to as the quality and has no qualms about expressing his disgust for his new master who has completely remodeled an old castle into a luxurious, brand spanking new house as vulgar as the up to date furniture he has furnished it with. Clearly Mr. Evans believes that Rupert Bartholomew’s death by food poisoning is no accident and it is Mrs. Jackson’s uncomfortable job to pick her way through the quicksand of relationships both upstairs and down to help the Countess of Montfort discover who wanted Mr. Bartholomew dead!
Visit Tessa Arlen's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Tessa Arlen & Daphne.

The Page 69 Test: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman.

The Page 69 Test: Death Sits Down to Dinner.

--Marshal Zeringue