The body of a young parlour-maid is found buried in the grounds of the grand house Miss Dalrymple just happens to be visiting to write an article about for her magazine, and she gets involved in the investigation when it becomes obvious to her that the local police are far too obtuse and incompetent to identify the real killer.
This style of this novel is reminiscent of the Jeeves and Wooster series, which I grew up watching and still adore. I found it difficult to get on board with Wodehouse’s prose, but maybe I was just a bit too young for it. The light-hearted tone and quaint idioms used are amusing, and outdated social prejudices abound, although not in the heroine, who is suitably modern and open-minded.
As this is the second novel in the series, I felt a little excluded when familiar characters from the previous novel were introduced, although they were always briefly explained rather than just shoved in without any background. The narrative voice has an odd habit of jumping around between characters unexpectedly, in the middle of a scene rather than between sections, and this as well as the exaggerated period language made it difficult for me to really immerse myself in the story.
That said, the characters are all easy to picture and for the most part very likeable, and the Parslow family in particular, who own the house where the body is found, are all wonderfully vivid. Some careless editing means that the occasional punctuation mark is absent, which I personally find very annoying but I know it probably wouldn’t bother most others as much. All in all, The Winter Garden Mystery is a charming light read, and the mystery keeps you guessing right until the end.
Next up: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini