Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Summary from the back of the book: It is a complete mystery why anyone would choose to murder the trusted old butler of Norton Manor. Barrister turned amateur detective, Frank Amberley has reason to suspect that the shooting involves the nervy young lady discovered at the scene of the crime, a snooping gentleman in the halls of Greythorne and then a second dead body. A dramatic tale of upstairs, downstairs and family secrets.
On his way to dinner at the house of his aunt and uncle Frank Amberly, an amateur detective, takes a wrong turn. On that road he finds a murdered man in a car, and there is a young lady, Shirley, standing next to the car. He reports it to the police, but leaves out Shirley because he feels that she didn't shoot the man (who turns out to be a butler). However the police would immediately arrest and hang her for the murder if they knew about her. Amberly finds that this an interesting case and decides to start investigating because he thinks the murder is one part of a much bigger plot. He's correct of course, and it's fun to read about how he works.
Frank Amberly is super-cool :D He, being a very rude person, has a huge collection of jibes and comebacks and uses them often as well, mostly and the incredibly dense policemen. He's really smart too, and he figures out the mystery quite fast, and spends most of the book trying to get evidence to back up his answer.
Shirley, on the other hand is a lady with many secrets and holds the key to the murder and the rest of the mystery. She frustrates Frank a lot with her unwillingness to trust him, and that adds quite a bit of humor to the story :P
There are many other characters of course, each different, from his uncle who hates any words about murder in his house, to Joan, his cousin's friend who is the one who lives in the house where the butler was shot. My favorite, however, is Lady Matthews, his aunt. She seems quite airy, and not all there- she drifts through topics a lot and says the randomest things and the randomest times- but she's quite cool xD
The romance in this book came in at the very end. (view spoiler)[It was one of those books where it was the girl is in danger and the guy finally realizes he loves her. I've read a lot of that in Historical Romance books. (hide spoiler)] It was slightly random, but it makes sense, I suppose. There was a cheesy line that didn't seem like that character would say it, but I guess it works if you need to wrap up the romance quickly :P
I won't give away who the people are, but you'll probably guess :P
Excerpt with the awesome Lady Matthews:
"Lady Matthews relapsed into silence. Her daughter was surprised to see something very like a frown on her face, but failed to get her to talk.
The frown was still there at lunchtime. Lady Matthews was unusually restless and twice murmured: ‘Why doesn’t Frank come back? Tiresome!’
Shortly after two the telephone bell rang. Sir Humphrey, who was seated in the library, answered it and said a little hastily that Mr Amberley was not in, and he didn’t know where he could be found. Yes, of course a message would be delivered to him immediately he came in.
Lady Matthews, who had entered the room, wanted to know who was trying to get hold of Frank.
‘Fountain,’ said Sir Humphrey. ‘Most odd message!’
‘I’m to tell Frank that he’s gone up to London and won’t be in till late. Did Frank want to see him?’
‘I don’t know. Quite possibly. Did he speak about the book?’
‘It wasn’t Fountain himself. The butler gave the message. Said Fountain was particularly anxious that Frank should know he’d gone to London and would be at his club all the afternoon.’
Lady Matthews shut the door. ‘Very worrying,’ she said. ‘Must try and get Frank.’
Her husband declared himself quite unable to see why she should be worried, and once more settled himself with his book on the sofa. Lady Matthews sat down at the desk, sighing, and rang up Carchester police station. Sir Humphrey evinced a certain surprise, for only in moments of great stress could his wife be induced to use the telephone.
The sergeant on duty could give her no certain intelligence. Mr Amberley had been in Carchester during the morning, but had gone out with the chief constable. Since then he had not been seen.
Lady Matthews, sighing more heavily still, rang up Colonel Watson’s house. The colonel was out.
‘Sometimes,’ said Lady Matthews pensively, ‘one can’t help believing in a malign providence.’
When Amberley had not come in by four o’clock, she said that he was just like his father. This pronouncement roused all Felicity’s curiosity, for matters must indeed be serious if her mother said that. Lady Matthews refused to unburden her mind either to her or to Sir Humphrey. When she absently refused first a scone, then bread-and-butter, and lastly cakes, her relatives became quite worried and hailed the appearance of Amberley at a quarter past five with considerable relief.
‘Thank goodness you’ve come!’ exclaimed Felicity. ‘Wherever have you been?’
He glanced indifferently down at her. ‘Investigating last night’s affair. Why this sudden desire for my company? Can I have some tea, Aunt Marion?’
His aunt chose two lumps of sugar from the bowl with extreme deliberation and spoke without looking up from this delicate task. ‘Two messages, dear Frank. Burdening my soul. That girl wants you. Either the Boar’s Head or the cottage. Such a disagreeable place.’
Amberley looked at her with a curious little smile in his eyes. ‘I wondered whether she would. All right.’
Lady Matthews lifted the milk-jug. ‘That butler. At the manor.’
The smile vanished; Mr Amberley regarded her fixedly. ‘Yes?’
‘A message from Basil Fountain. He has gone to town.’
‘At about two o’clock, my dear.’
‘Who gave the message?’
‘The butler. Didn’t I say so? His club, all the afternoon.’
Amberley seemed to consider, his eyes on the clock. ‘I see. I think, on the whole, I won’t wait for tea.’
‘No, dear boy,’ agreed his aunt. ‘Much wiser not. Something interesting to tell you. So stupid of Humphrey! That book. You’ve been at sea over it.’
‘Entirely at sea. Well?’
‘Humphrey left it at the Boar’s Head by mistake. He and Felicity, you know. Calling on Shirley. Forgot it.’
Amberley swung round to face his uncle. ‘You left it there?’ he snapped. ‘Did she have it?’
‘Now I come to think of it, I did leave it behind,’ said Sir Humphrey. ‘We went back for it immediately, however. Miss Brown gave it to me at once.’
‘Why the devil couldn’t you say so before?’ demanded Amberley. ‘When did this come out? Who knows about it?’
‘Felicity, my dear. Told Basil Fountain. Lots of people know. Joan and that nice young man and me and the butler.’
Felicity quailed before the look on her cousin’s face. ‘I’m awfully sorry if I’ve put my foot into it, but how was I to know I wasn’t to mention it?’
‘You’re a damned little fool!’ said Mr Amberley with distressing outspokenness, and was gone before she could think of a suitable retort.
A moment later they heard the whirr of the Bentley’s self-starter. The car shot off under the window with something of a roar.
Sir Humphrey recovered from the shock of his nephew’s rough usage of him. ‘God bless my soul!’ he ejaculated. ‘Really, I had no notion it was so important. I began to be quite alarmed.’
Lady Matthews looked round at the cake-stand. ‘Why has no one given me anything to eat?’ she said plaintively. ‘I’m exceedingly hungry.’
‘You refused everything,’ Felicity reminded her.
‘Nonsense, my dear. Give me a scone, please,’ said Lady Matthews, placid as ever."
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