A Most Agreeable Murder – Julia Seales

I was quite impressed with A Most Agreeable Murder by Julia Seales. It didn’t read like a debut novel, which was pretty impressive considering that it was written in a fantastical style. I think “zany” (a word that I have probably never used before in my life) is the best adjective that describes this book. It was funny, witty, and cleverly put together. I give it four out of five stars. 

Beatrice Steele lives in the village of Swampshire, a small, seemingly inbred town as far away from London as the founder could make it. It’s dark, rainy, and filled with luminous mud pits, frogs, and rules. Ladies in the town of Swampshire aren’t permitted to do anything fun, even if they’re not good at sewing and artwork, which are acceptable hobbies for them. Falling into that category, Beatrice has a secret that could get her banished from the town: she loves crime. Not committing it, just solving it – but if anyone knew of her dark interests, she would be cast out of the family home forever. 

Things come to a head when, at the neighboring Stabmort Park’s ball, a rich young gentleman is murdered right in front of Beatrice’s eyes. This might have ruined her mother’s vision of marrying her sister Louisa off, but for Beatrice, it is a dream come true. She has to team up with Inspector Vivek Drake, who doesn’t have the best reputation, but it’s a small price to pay for her final shot at her deepest interest before she must seriously pursue a husband. As Drake and Beatrice pursue a killer together, they hope to find the culprit amongst their constant bickering. 

I wasn’t certain I would like the mystery after reading the synopsis, but it sounded whimsical enough that I wanted to give it a shot. And – wow – did Seales pull off a good balance between the silly and the mysterious. Red herrings, mysterious attacks, and suspicious clues were trickled throughout the book, and the only thing that made me guess the killer was barely included in the plot. All in all, I thought the mystery was woven together well, and I was really pleased with the plot and some twists at the end. 

Although the plot was solid and engaging, A Most Agreeable Murder was not serious in the least; it was really amusing and witty. I think this was because of the setting, characters, and tone. The setting of the book was uproarious. Swampshire sounds like the most awful place with its mud holes, frogs, weather, rules, hatred of anything French, etc. The naming of items was well-done, such as Stabmort Park (the murder scene) and Mr. Croaksworth (the victim). It’s very satirical of 18th-century England, and I love that it points out some of the more ridiculous (to us) social standards of that time. 

The cast of characters in Swampshire is one of the strangest I’ve ever encountered, but it totally lends itself to the un-seriousness of the book. Beatrice seems normal because she has ordinary desires to go beyond what ladies are “supposed” to do, but I’m a little worried about her sanity, too. Her father is constantly pulling pranks, which crop up constantly throughout the book. Hints are dropped constantly about a secret identity that her youngest sister, Mary, might have. Beatrice’s mother is only concerned about finding a husband for her daughters. The Lord of Stabmort Park is a dedicated hypochondriac, and other characters are just as odd. Between the cast and the description of Swampshire, it paints a very hilarious picture of the tiny little town. 

The tone of the book was very effective in its storytelling. We see everything through Beatrice’s eyes, who tends to be more of a realist. Her observations tend to be very dry and witty, and these tones amongst the silliness of Swampshire really work throughout the book. She can see how unrealistic the rules of Swampshire are but feels that her future is in the town, so she’s willing to accept the best option that she can find for herself. So, her effort at toeing the line is interesting and entertaining to watch. 

In summary, I was pleasantly surprised by A Most Agreeable Murder. It sounded too silly to be good but turned out to have a solid plot while being extremely witty and entertaining. If you’re looking for something on the lighter end of the spectrum, this would be a good read to pick up! Have you tried it? Let me know what you think!

Published by SamIAmReading

I am an avid reader and lover of historical mysteries and romances, but happy to take review requests and expand my horizons! All opinions in this blog are my own and have been given freely.

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