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Slanderley: Love and Death in Cornwall

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Length: 253 pages3 hours

Summary

In the early 1900s Eddie Quirk is butler at Slanderley, home of the cursed de Loverly family. Two puzzling aristocratic marriages and a demented housekeeper shatter his hope for calm. Nasty deaths drop like spiders. Naïve Eddie is trapped in a web of ridiculous intrigue, with no help from Sloth or Mrs. Anvil. Slanderley is a refreshing riff on a classic. The haunted ancestral mansion, scheming housekeeper, skulking servants, chinless aristocrats and naïve bride get a delightful re-vamp in this briskly-paced, hilarious spoof on the woman in jeopardy genre. The story is told by Quirk, intent upon correcting a best-selling book about crimes at the house. Alert readers will recognize a Rebecca serving as the inspiration, yet it stands alone as a twisted romp for those unfamiliar.
Unlike Rebecca, the story's narrator is Quirk, a naive and nosy character who comes of age emotionally through his discoveries. He reveals the history of Slanderley and its eccentric owners. The main plot reflects Rebecca with regard to the two marriages, the jealous husband, and the crazed housekeeper. Algernon de Loverley marries Ravina Elmsby, who dies unexpectedly, and returns from a vacation married to Prunilla Crisp. Mrs. Anvil lurks throughout, causing trouble for both upstairs and down. Quirk recounts the story after the fact, his correction of a certain best seller's version. Consequently new characters emerge, such as groundskeeper Sloth, business manager (and gay) Freddie, and Aunt Jemima. Similar to Rebecca, the plot reveals Lord de Loverley murdered his first wife. But after that, the story skews afar.
Accurate historical references to Britain c. 1900-1935 add to the entertainment value. The mockery includes downstairs and estate workers as well as the upstairs family and guests. Sexual shenanigans ride lightly throughout. The humor has a British bent as well, with silly names and places, puns, and outrageous turns of plot. Readers of Bill Bryson, P.G. Woodhouse, and John Cleese will discover similar absurd situations. The mystery plot turns repeatedly yet resolves neatly in an unexpected conclusion. Telling the story from "downstairs" will appeal to Dowton Abbey and British manor house fans. Early readers spoke of "laughing out loud" and mystery fans approved the complex yet believable plot.

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