Why Shoot a Butler?

By Georgette Heyer

Steeped in the idyllic atmosphere and culture of country life in 1930’s England, Why Shoot a Butler is for anglophiles who like period pieces only. The mystery isn’t much. A reader who is only half paying attention knows who the main villain is, why the murders occurred, and the big secret right from the beginning. But the romance is one of her best, the wit and humor are tops, and the characters that populate the manor houses, estates, cottages, and villages are a delight. They are all deftly drawn, but my favorite is Lady Matthews, our hero’s aunt, whose delightfully vague and placid manner hides a mind like a steel trap. She reminded me a bit of Harriet in Sprig Muslin

The two principals are the renowned and brilliant barrister cum amateur detective, Frank Amberly, and the damsel in distress cum possible criminal, Sally Brown. Frank is the perfect combo of Heyer’s Mark I and Mark 2 heroes. He is rude and mocking, with flashes of temper and a hint of danger. But dogs love him. He is straight out of the regency hero playbook but transplanted a hundred or so years forward. He is a mixture of Robert Beaumaris and Lord Worth. Shirley on the other hand is a thoroughly modern girl. I can think of no regency heroine like her. She acts tough, is independent, self-sufficient, and courageous, yet Heyer gives her just enough vulnerability to soften her. I found it a very intriguing match-up. And the suspenseful race towards the end to avoid a tragedy is action-packed, tense, and suspenseful. Combined with Ulli Birve’s stellar narration and acting, It is my favorite Heyer mystery, I think. **4 1/2 stars out of 5**

August 21, 2020

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