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Mrs. Jeffries Weeds the Plot    by Emily Brightwell order for
Mrs. Jeffries Weeds the Plot
by Emily Brightwell
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2000
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Emily Brightwell's story is a cozy mystery with a difference. It is set in Victorian England in the delightful household of Inspector Witherspoon. This includes housekeeper Hepzibah Jeffries, Mrs. Goodge the cook, Betsy the maid, Smythe the coachman, Wiggins the footman, and Fred the dog. Unknown to the inspector, his loyal staff are instrumental in solving the crimes he is assigned to investigate.

In this particular case, Mrs. Jeffries and colleagues answer a plea for help from Annabeth Gentry. A thirty-something spinster, she is a most unlikely victim of violence, but recent questionable incidents lead her to wonder if an unknown enemy is threatening her life. Since she is a recent heiress, with the requisite unlikeable relatives, her fears are not unfounded. As the amateur detectives investigate, they find more than one corpse in Miss Gentry's vicinity as well as a rash of other suspicious incidents. Their investigation is hampered, as always, by the necessity of keeping their activities secret from the good Inspector, who is drawn into the affair when a case that he is investigating is linked to Miss Gentry's troubles.

At the end, they do solve the case - adding to Witherspoon's reputation - and put an end to a very ugly crime. The author paints her Victorian England in gentle colours, and although she appears to be knowledgeable about historical reality, she does take a few liberties with it. Witherspoon's household is not the norm, as Mrs. Jeffries herself points out, and its inhabitants are aware that they are very fortunate in their situations.

Part of the fun of visiting Brightwell's world lies in renewing acquaintance with its inhabitants, to see what is happening in their lives. Betsy and Smythe are now engaged, and Mrs. Goodge is losing some of her rigidity and suspiciousness. Inspector Witherspoon remains oblivious to his staff's investigative activities, though his very competent sergeant is now aware of their help. The interplay and relationships between the characters are engrossing and form a large part of the charm of the series. Since this author is fairly prolific, her fans can count on many a good read.

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