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Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time (A Victorian Mystery) Mass Market Paperback – March 3, 2009
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About the Author
Emily Brightwell is the New York Times bestselling author of the Victorian Mystery series featuring Inspector Witherspoon and Mrs. Jeffries.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
“Emily Brightwell continues to brighten the well-being of her fans with entertaining mysteries.”
—Midwest Book Review
WHAT WOULD SCOTLAND YARD DO WITHOUT DEAR MRS. JEFFRIES?
Even Inspector Witherspoon himself doesn’t know—because his secret weapon is as ladylike as she is clever. She’s Mrs. Jeffries—the charming detective who stars in this unique Victorian mystery series. Enjoy them all . . .
The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries
A doctor is found dead in his own office—and Mrs. Jeffries must scour the premises to find the prescription for murder.
Mrs. Jeffries Dusts for Clues
One case is solved and another is opened when the Inspector finds a missing brooch—pinned to a dead woman’s gown. But Mrs. Jeffries never cleans a room without dusting under the bed—and never gives up on a case before every loose end is tightly tied.
The Ghost and Mrs. Jeffries
Death is unpredictable . . . but the murder of Mrs. Hodges was foreseen at a spooky séance. The practical-minded Mrs. Jeffries may not be able to see the future—but she can look into the past and put things in order to solve this haunting crime.
Mrs. Jeffries Takes Stock
A businessman has been murdered—and it could be because he cheated his stockholders. The housekeeper’s interest is piqued . . . and when it comes to catching killers, the smart money’s on Mrs. Jeffries.
Mrs. Jeffries on the Ball
A festive Jubilee celebration turns into a fatal affair—and Mrs. Jeffries must find the guilty party.
Mrs. Jeffries on the Trail
Why was Annie Shields out selling flowers so late on a foggy night? And more importantly, who killed her while she was doing it? It’s up to Mrs. Jeffries to sniff out the clues.
Mrs. Jeffries Plays the Cook
Mrs. Jeffries finds herself doing double duty: cooking for the Inspector’s household and trying to cook a killer’s goose.
Mrs. Jeffries and the Missing Alibi
When Inspector Witherspoon becomes the main suspect in a murder, Scotland Yard refuses to let him investigate. But no one said anything about Mrs. Jeffries.
Mrs. Jeffries Stands Corrected
When a local publican is murdered, and Inspector Witherspoon botches the investigation, trouble starts to brew for Mrs. Jeffries.
Mrs. Jeffries Takes the Stage
After a theater critic is murdered, Mrs. Jeffries uncovers the victim’s secret past: a real-life drama more compelling than any stage play.
Mrs. Jeffries Questions the Answers
Hannah Cameron was not well-liked. But were her friends or family the sort to stab her in the back? Mrs. Jeffries must find out.
Mrs. Jeffries Reveals Her Art
Mrs. Jeffries has to work double time to find a missing model and a killer. And she’ll have to get her whole staff involved—before someone else becomes the next subject.
Mrs. Jeffries Takes the Cake
The evidence was all there: a dead body, two dessert plates, and a gun. As if Mr. Ashbury had been sharing cake with his own killer. Now Mrs. Jeffries will have to do some snooping around—to dish up clues.
Mrs. Jeffries Rocks the Boat
Mirabelle had traveled by boat all the way from Australia to visit her sister—only to wind up murdered. Now Mrs. Jeffries must solve the case—and it’s sink or swim.
Mrs. Jeffries Weeds the Plot
Three attempts have been made on Annabeth Gentry’s life. Is it due to her recent inheritance, or is it because her blood-hound dug up the body of a murdered thief? Mrs. Jeffries will have to sniff out some clues before the plot thickens.
Mrs. Jeffries Pinches the Post
Harrison Nye may have had some dubious business dealings, but no one ever expected him to be murdered. Now Mrs. Jeffries and her staff must root through the sins of his past to discover which one caught up with him.
Mrs. Jeffries Pleads Her Case
Harlan Westover’s death was deemed a suicide by the magistrate. But Inspector Witherspoon is willing to risk his career to prove otherwise. And it’s up to Mrs. Jeffries to ensure the good inspector remains afloat.
Mrs. Jeffries Sweeps the Chimney
A dead vicar has been found, propped against a church wall. And Inspector Witherspoon’s only prayer is to seek the divinations of Mrs. Jeffries.
Mrs. Jeffries Stalks the Hunter
Puppy love turns to obsession, which leads to murder. Who better to get to the heart of the matter than Inspector Witherspoon’s indomitable companion, Mrs. Jeffries.
Mrs. Jeffries and the Silent Knight
The yuletide murder of an elderly man is complicated by several suspects—none of whom were in the Christmas spirit.
Mrs. Jeffries Appeals the Verdict
Mrs. Jeffries and her belowstairs cohorts have their work cut out for them if they want to save an innocent man from the gallows.
Mrs. Jeffries and the Best Laid Plans
Banker Lawrence Boyd didn’t waste his time making friends, which is why hardly anyone mourns his death. With a list of enemies including just about everyone the miser’s ever met, it will take Mrs. Jeffries’ shrewd eye to find the killer.
Mrs. Jeffries and the Feast of St. Stephen
’Tis the season for sleuthing when wealthy Stephen Whit-field is murdered during his holiday dinner party. It’s up to Mrs. Jeffries to solve the case in time for Christmas.
Mrs. Jeffries Holds the Trump
A very-well-liked but very dead magnate is found floating down the river. Now Mrs. Jeffries and company will have to dive into a mystery that only grows more complex.
Visit Emily Brightwell’s website
Also available from Prime Crime:
The first three Mrs. Jeffries Mysteries in one volume
Mrs. Jeffries Learns the Trade.
Berkley Prime Crime titles by Emily Brightwell
THE INSPECTOR AND Mrs. JEFFRIES
Mrs. JEFFRIES dusts For clues
THE GHOST AND Mrs. JEFFRIES
Mrs. JEFFRIES takes stock
Mrs. JEFFRIES ON THE Ball
Mrs. JEFFRIES ON THE trail
Mrs. JEFFRIES plays THE cook
Mrs. JEFFRIES AND THE MISSING ALIBI
Mrs. JEFFRIES STANDS corrected
Mrs. JEFFRIES takes THE stage
Mrs. JEFFRIES QUESTIONS THE ANSWER
Mrs. JEFFRIES reveals Her art
Mrs. JEFFRIES takes THE cake
Mrs. JEFFRIES rocks THE Boat
Mrs. JEFFRIES weeds THE plot
Mrs. JEFFRIES PINCHES THE post
Mrs. JEFFRIES pleads Her case
Mrs. JEFFRIES sweeps THE CHIMNEY
Mrs. JEFFRIES stalks THE HUNTER
Mrs. JEFFRIES AND THE SILENT KNIGHT
Mrs. JEFFRIES appeals THE verdict
Mrs. JEFFRIES AND THE Best laid PLANS
Mrs. JEFFRIES AND THE Feast OF st. STEPHEN
Mrs. JEFFRIES Holds THE TRUMP
Mrs. JEFFRIES IN THE Nick OF TIME
Mrs. JEFFRIES LEARNS THE trade
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
MRS. JEFFRIES IN THE NICK OF TIME
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / March 2009
All rights reserved.
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eISBN : 978-1-101-01967-2
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This book is dedicated to the congregation
of Irvine United Congregational Church.
A place which is proudly progressive, radically inclusive,
and where everyone is invited to the table.
“Let’s hope that the sight of Mr. Kirkland having tea with us doesn’t send Uncle Francis into a fit when he finally decides to join us,” Annabelle Prescott whispered to her cousin, Imogene Ross. They were sitting on the sofa in the drawing room and waiting for their uncle, Francis Humphreys, to come down and greet the guests he’d invited to tea.
“Mr. Kirkland said that Uncle was expecting him,” Imogene murmured in reply. “Where is Uncle? Our guests are beginning to get restless. Mr. Eddington has cornered poor Mr. and Mrs. Brown and he’s such a bore, they’ll both soon be asleep. Honestly, I don’t know why Uncle Francis has to invite him to every social function.” She glanced in the direction of the closed double oak doors of the drawing room. “You’d think Uncle Francis would be down here promptly if for no other reason than to spare his guests from being forced to listen to Mr. Eddington’s constant complaints about the Great Western Railway. Who would have thought a railroad could inspire such passion? It’s all the man ever talks about.”
Annabelle laughed softly. “Mrs. Brown just stifled a yawn. I expect Uncle Francis will be down momentarily. He’s probably taking his time getting dressed and waiting for the 4:06 to pass.”
“I thought he only cared about the 3:09 to Bristol? Still, it’s not like him to be late. You know what a stickler he is for punctuality. Perhaps I ought to run upstairs.” Imogene started to get up off the settee.
“Don’t,” Annabelle said sharply as she motioned Imogene back to her seat. “He was having trouble tying his cravat and you know how sensitive he’s become lately. He hates people thinking he’s too old and feeble to take care of his person. He’ll not thank you for interrupting him.”
“That’s true.” Imogene sank back down and smiled ruefully. “He got angry with me yesterday and all I did was mention that his waistcoat was unbuttoned. I didn’t mean anything by the comment; I was merely trying to save him a bit of embarrassment. After all, he was on his way out. He was going to see his solicitor.”
Francis Humphreys was their mutual uncle and the owner of the huge house where both women now resided. They were his nieces, but the circumstances of how the two cousins ended up living under the same roof were very different.
He had insisted Annabelle come live with him and play the role of the lady of the house when her husband had died two years ago. Imogene’s invitation had been rather grudgingly given when she’d written from the railway hotel in Bristol that she’d just been sacked from her position as a governess.
Uncle Francis had very definite notions about family duty and obligations but that didn’t mean he ever let her forget she had a roof over her head because he knew what was right and proper. Still, she oughtn’t complain. She had a nice room and a small, but adequate quarterly allowance for her clothing and personal items. Nevertheless, she was looking for another position.
“He’s not sensitive,” a male voice said from behind Imogene. “He’s senile and getting worse every day. If we don’t do something quickly, he’s going to spend every last farthing of my aunt Estelle’s estate.”
Annabelle twisted slightly and looked at the thin young man standing behind them. “Shh . . . someone will hear you,” she warned.
Michael Collier shrugged, came around the sofa, and slipped into the empty spot next to her. He was perfectly dressed in a gray suit with a darker gray waistcoat underneath, red cravat, and white shirt. “I don’t care who hears me. I’m simply saying what everyone else is thinking. Look over there at those two.” He nodded toward a middle-aged couple sitting on the loveseat next to the fireplace. “They’re both so worried about what he’s going to do next that they came all the way up from Dorset just to have tea with the old man and make sure he hasn’t gone completely bonkers.”
“Be quiet, Michael,” Imogene urged. “Uncle Francis will have a fit if someone repeats your words.”
Collier raised an eyebrow. “I don’t care if they give him a verbatim report. As a matter of fact, it might do him the world of good to know we’re all concerned about his behavior.”
“But he hasn’t done anything yet,” Imogene hissed. Like the rest of the family, she’d heard the rumors. “He’s only talking about it.”
“He’s done more than talk,” Michael muttered darkly. “He’s been to see both the stockbroker and the solicitor. That means he’s taking action. If we don’t do something, we’re all going to end up with nothing. Aunt Estelle may have left him all her money, but she meant for him to handle her estate wisely, not fritter it away on one nonsensical project after another.”
“But she did leave it to him,” Annabelle said bluntly. “Not to you.”
“I get my share when he dies,” Michael snapped. “And so do the rest of you, so get off your high horse, Annabelle. You’re as concerned about this latest bit of nonsense as I am.”
“Be careful,” Imogene said softly. “Uncle Francis has ears everywhere.” She glanced meaningfully around the huge drawing room. In one corner, Mr. and Mrs. Elliot, the distant relations from Dorset, were sipping tea and helping themselves to another slice of seedcake from the silver tray on the tea trolley. Another cousin, Pamela Bowden Humphreys, was sitting in the chair next to the Elliots and making no effort whatsoever to be sociable. She was staring morosely out the window, watching the falling rain.
Next to her sat Mr. and Mrs. Brown, the nice neighbors from the house closest to Humphreys House who were now stuck with listening to Robert Eddington drone on about the advantages of the broad-gauge track and how unfortunate it was that some railways had been coerced into converting to single gauge. Despite being old and white haired, Mr. Eddington had a voice that carried very distinctly. Sitting on a chair a few feet away was Joseph Leland Humphreys, another cousin. He was staring at Eddington with a sardonic, amused expression.
Leo Kirkland made up the last of the group. But he was sitting in an overstuffed chair on the far side of the fireplace, nursing a cup of tea and casting furtive glances toward the closed doors leading to the hallway.
Michael Collier rose to his feet. “Maybe we should see what’s keeping Uncle Francis—” He stopped speaking as a loud, sharp noise boomed through the house.
“Good Lord, what was that?” Joseph leapt up.
“It sounded like someone dropped something.” Annabelle put her cup down on the tabletop.
“That wasn’t something being dropped.” Imogene got up as well.
“It was a gunshot,” Leo Kirkland said flatly. “Someone’s shot off a gun and what’s more, it was in the house.”
Annabelle and Imogene looked at each other just as Joseph charged for the door. Michael Collier went flying after him.
Everyone else got to their feet. The relatives all ran for the staircase, leaving only Eddington and the Browns in the drawing room.
Joseph and Michael reached the first floor landing at the same time; the women were right on their heels. For a split second, they stood there. Then Annabelle pointed to Francis’ room. “Look, his door is partially open. Oh goodness, you can see him. There’s something wrong. He’s not moving.”
The two men charged into the room. Francis Humphreys was sitting at his desk. His head was slumped over as though he’d fallen asleep and he was leaning to his left.
Michael got to him first. He reached down and put his fingers under the man’s chin. Then he gasped and hastily stepped back. Joseph impatiently shoved him aside. “What’s wrong? What is it?” He lifted his uncle’s chin so that everyone could see.
Blood dripped down from the small hole in Francis’ forehead and his eyes were open, giving his plump face a rather surprised expression.
“He’s been shot.” Michael’s voice was a shocked whisper.
“Oh, that’s most definitely a gunshot,” Leo Kirkland said calmly. He had entered the room quietly and come up to stand behind Annabelle.
“Oh my gracious,” Imogene cried. Her lips quivered and her eyes filled with tears.
“I think the ladies ought to leave the room,” Kirkland said softly.
“Is he dead?” Annabelle’s voice trembled.
Joseph reached over and put his fingers on the pulse point on Francis’ neck. After a few seconds, he moved his hand inside the man’s jacket, placing his fingers over his chest. “I’m not a doctor, but I don’t feel a pulse or a heartbeat. I’m afraid he’s gone.”
Kirkland sighed heavily. “You really must call the police.”
“The police?” Pamela cried. “What are you talking about? Surely this was an accident.”
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Top customer reviews
Thank goodness this book didn't have all the grammatical errors of the previous one. Must have had a different proofreader.
"Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time" is another great entry in a consistently delightful cozy mystery series. This is the twenty-fifth book in the series and author Emily Brightwell continues to make the series feel fresh. A lot of what makes this series work so well is the characters and they are all here - Witherspoon, Constable Barnes, Mrs. Jeffries, Mrs. Goodge, Wiggins, Betsy, Smythe, Luty, Hatchet, and for a pleasant change, a lot of Ruth Cannonberry. Witherspoon's old nemesis, Inspector Nigel Nivens, is also there (showing a softer side for a change) as is Nivens' nephew Lionel Gates (who adds a lot of comic relief to the book). Another thing that makes this series stay so fresh is the way Brightwell manages to throw in different plot twists - there's a doozy of one here (which I won't spoil) that completely changes how Witherspoon and his household investigate the case. The mystery itself is nicely plotted - readers will early on have at least an idea of how the murder was done, but not exactly how it was pulled off. Brightwell continues to create Agatha Christie-like mysteries and once you have finished reading the book you will want to go back through the pages to see how cleverly Brightwell plotted the book and left clues as to who the real killer is while adroitly pointing the finger at other characters - not an easy task but she does it well.
"Mrs. Jeffries in the Nick of Time" is another wonderful cozy mystery from the talented Emily Brightwell.