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In the Still of the Night: A Grace and Favor Mystery    by Jill Churchill Amazon.com order for
In the Still of the Night
by Jill Churchill
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2000 (2000)
Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Jill Churchill is best known for her cozy mysteries about suburban housewife Jane Jeffry. In the Still of the Night features a new team of amateur detectives in an interesting historical context. Like many others, Lily and Robert Brewster are victims of the disastrous stock market crash of 1929. Unprepared to earn their living, Lily and her brother nonetheless accept the challenge, taking menial jobs and coping with all the indignities of poverty. Their resilience impresses an eccentric relative, who leaves them a mansion and a fortune. Naturally, there is a catch. Great-uncle Horatio expects them to show perseverance. The money will be tied up for ten years, and the two are not allowed to leave the mansion for more than two months a year.

Bored and still near-penniless (their lawyer releases money only for costs of maintaining the mansion), Lily and Robert decide to take in paying guests. After all, there are still a few people with money, despite the crash. Their lure is a chance to rub shoulders with celebrity author Julian West, whose works about warfare are given immediacy by West's own tragic participation in the Great War. Much to the siblings' delight, they attract enough paying guests to make the weekend modestly profitable. Lily is pleased that an old teacher, Addie Jonson, can come; less pleased to find that the last (self-invited) guest, Lorna Ethridge, misrepresented herself and is not a dear friend of Addie's, but much loathed by her.

Things go rapidly downhill. There are undercurrents amongst the guests and Lorna Ethridge seems to be at the centre of much of the agitation. West proves to be prickly and sullen. Why did he agree to come? Worst of all is the discovery of Lorna's strangled body. Lily and Robert must exercise their wits in order to find the murderer before their plans for fiscal independence are ruined. Churchill's brother-and-sister team are likeable protagonists, and the 1930s setting gives a novel twist. Fans who like their mysteries with a different historical setting might also want to check out Carola Dunn's 'Daisy Dalrymple' mysteries (set in the 1920s) or Emily Brightwell's charming Victorian mysteries featuring Mrs. Jeffries.

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