Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering
Drew Farthering Mysteries #3
Bethany House Publishers
❤ Goodreads Synopsis ❤
Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She's married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she'll soon disappear--until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect.
Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiance, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It's Drew's most complicated case yet.
❤ My Thoughts ❤
Sometimes you just a need story to transport you to another time and place. This is it!
While I love books 1 and 2, Rules of Murder and Death by the Book, I find that Murder at the Mikado is my favorite so far of the Drew Farthering mystery series. It has literally everything you could want from a novel set in the era of Poirot and Bertie Wooster. The niggling little complaint I had in Death by the Book, that I couldn't easily follow the trail of the mystery, has been emphatically rectified, if anything, this is one of the more cohesive mysteries that I've ever read from modern storytellers. No hems and haws, no ummms, no confused flipping back through the pages to find details, just AHHAAH moments where I thunked my forehead and went "Oh, that's what this moment was leading up to!"
The Holmes and Watson gag is still quite present with Drew and his best friend, Nick, although Nick does not have as large a role as in the prior two novels. Instead, the focus shifts to a much stronger attention on Drew and Madeline. After all, those two are planning their wedding. So, while Holmes and Watson remarks are there, I was much more enthralled by the occasional Tommy and Tuppence comment. Drew and Madeline had an entire conversation that involved Agatha Christie's infamous duo! Loved it, and it just really served to solidify me in the era. Of course these are the books that Drew and Madeline, mystery lovers that they are, would have been reading!
You know how sometimes characters fall flat. They feel one-dimensional, like flat representations of people instead of real people? I'm challenged by this weakness myself in my writing sometimes. Julianna Deering does NOT have this problem. Her characters, from the lead characters to the secondary ones to the window dressing, are all real. I could go back in time to 1930s England and brush up against Drew Farthering walking down the street as easily as I could brush up against Bertie Wooster. Now that is some remarkable talent.
The mystery itself is absolutely intriguing. All of the pieces fit together seamlessly, flowing from one step to the next in a beautiful range of motion that I almost envy. Involving the theater of the 1930s enchanted me and I admired the contrast made between Madeline's gentile compassion and wholesome charm and the beguiling allure of Fleur Landis. You get to watch Drew, who never would have left Madeline despite her doubts, finally solidify in his own mind the emptiness of a relationship with a woman like Fleur and the fulfillment brought about by being with Madeline. In that same vein, I also must applaud Drew for his restraint when it comes to his fiance. He brushes kisses to her cheek, holds her hand, squeezes her to his side, but is always, always aware of propriety and how careful he must be to avoid temptation. He is every bit the gentleman and I love him for it. Of course, the road to love is never altogether smooth, and so there are a few bumps for Drew and Madeline in Murder at the Mikado, but I understood the whys behind them. They weren't just thrown in for drama.
I think I mentioned this before in my Death by the Book review, but it bears repeating. I love the authenticity of Christianity as represented in this series. There is no pretense. There is no idle vanity of faith and there is no ramming it down the readers throats. It is simply a part of these already complex people. I love it. The realness of Drew and Madeline's faith warms me because I see where they struggle and I see where they fail, but God is always faithful.
The Drew Farthering Mysteries delight me, wholeheartedly. I love having a series that I can give to my mother (a diehard Poirot and Jeeves & Wooster fan), who loves them equally as much as I do. Julianna Deering has certainly stumbled across what, I hope, is a gold mine for her. These books are delectably unique and as soon as I dot the last I and cross the last T of this review, I'm going to start Dressed for Death, book 4 in the series that just arrived for me as a complimentary copy from Bethany House. I'm sure I'll love it! ❤