Someone to Watch over Me (Grace and Favor Series #3)by Jill Churchill
Lily Brewster and her brother Robert were living high on the hog in Manhattan until the Crash of '29 took the family fortune south. Abruptly penniless, they have taken up residence in their late great-uncle Horatio's upstate estate on the banks of the Hudson and are slowly getting used to small-town life. But while tearing down a dilapidated ice house on the… See more details below
Lily Brewster and her brother Robert were living high on the hog in Manhattan until the Crash of '29 took the family fortune south. Abruptly penniless, they have taken up residence in their late great-uncle Horatio's upstate estate on the banks of the Hudson and are slowly getting used to small-town life. But while tearing down a dilapidated ice house on the property, Robert inadvertently stumbles upon a well-dressed, mummified human corpse, the obvious victim of foul play. And as Lily works hand-in-hand with the disarmingly attractive Chief of Police howard Walker on the local front and Robert pursues the Manhattan connection in search of their well-heeled John Doe's identity, a second dead body turns up to complicate an already complexly murderous matter -- tying the Brewsters up in a knotty mess of deception and betrayal ... and leaving them dangerously exposed to the watchful eyes of a killer.
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Lily Brewster and her brother, Robert, sat in the dining room of the mansion known as Grace and Favor Cottage. Robert was at the head of the long table reading the New York Times and mumbling to himself as he sipped his morning coffee and grimaced. "Lily, is Mrs. Prinney watering this stuff down? It hasn't got any taste."
"I think she is. She said something chirpy about chicory tasting just like coffee." Lily nearly had to shout to be heard at the other end. Lily was, as usual, doing the household books and had receipts, scrap paper, pencil, and pen spread around her while she munched on her toast with her left hand.
Between them, halfway along, was their boarder, Phoebe Twinkle, the dainty young redheaded village milliner and seamstress. "Where is Mrs. Prinney?" she said, touching a napkin to her lips.
"Gardening. As usual," Lily said.
She closed her ledger and capped her late mother's fountain pen, tidied up her piles of paperwork, picked up her plate and silverware, and went to sit between the others so she didn't have to scream to be heard.
"Should this be worrying us, Robert? Or is she just taking up a new hobby?"
Robert, who was seldom without a grin and a smart crack, was uncharacteristically solemn. "Haven't you been to the greengrocer's lately? There's almost nothing there except what that local woman grows."
"But not even Roxanne Anderson can possibly grow enough for the whole town," Phoebe put in.
Lily had been working hard at trying (but failing) to ignore the country's deteriorating financial situation. She ran her hands through her hair and admitted, "I hate this. It just gets worse and worse. Thank goodness the Democrats have nominated Governor Roosevelt for President. At least he can't make more of a mess of the economy than Hoover."
"Unless it completely collapses before he takes office if he wins," Robert added. "The election is months away, and the new President doesn't take office until next March. Anything could happen by then."
"You think Hoover could be reelected?" Lily asked in alarm.
Robert looked at his sister and realized he'd frightened her more than he should have. Not that he wasn't terrified. While President Hoover made weekly announcements of how the economy was improving, it was obvious that everyday life for almost everyone was getting much, much worse. "No, Governor Roosevelt will be elected. He's the only governor who's actually done demonstrably good things for his own state. He's beaten the state legislature into funding a few public works projects. Now I've got to change clothes for my own project."
"And what's that?" Lily asked.
"With Mr. Prinney's permission I hired a couple of young men from the village, the Harbinger boys, to help me tear down the old icehouse. There's some good sturdy wood in it that someone could put to use."
"The icehouse? How will we cool things?" Lily asked.
"Not the one behind the pantry," Robert said, rolling his eyes. "The one in the woods."
Lily looked at him as if he were mad.
"You don't believe me?" Robert said. "Come take a look."
"No can do," Lily said. "Phoebe and I are on our way to a special meeting of the VLL."
"Robert, how could you forget?" Lily said. "The Voorburg Ladies League. It's the first meeting I've been invited to. It's quite an honor and might mean the village is accepting us as real people."
Robert made an exaggerated motion of slapping his head. "Stupid of me," he said sarcastically. "How can you bear to be around that White woman who runs it?"
Phoebe and Lily exchanged a look; Phoebe answered. "She's not really so bad when you get to know her."
Robert waved this away. "I've met her. To my sorrow. She's a runaway locomotive."
"But I hear she means well, Robert," Lily objected. "Her manner is bossy, but people say her ideas are usually good. She just got back from a visit to Philadelphia and told Phoebe she's had a brainstorm about how we can help others in Voorburg. An emergency meeting. Phoebe, are you ready to go?"
The two young women gathered their handbags and the canvas bag with their good shoes and set out to take the shortcut through the woods and down the hill to town. Though there wasn't much traffic on the road, it wound around so much that it was at least four times the length of the old Indian path from the hills overlooking the river.
They would change from their sturdy shoes to their nice ones once they were close to the village of Voorburgon-Hudson. Phoebe had alerted Lily that Mrs. White was obsessed with appearances, and while they wouldn't admit it to Robert, neither of them wanted to be accused of bad taste in footwear. Especially not by Mrs. White, who was always immaculately dressed, thoroughly corseted and well shod.
Phoebe Twinkle, who had been in Voorburg longer than Lily and seldom had access to an automobile, was much more surefooted on the steep path than Lily, but she held back with good grace and set her pace to her companion's.
"I don't really know very much about Mrs. White except that she scares me to death," Lily said to Phoebe. "Has she lived here long?"
"All her life, as far as I know," Phoebe said, pulling aside a branch of a decrepit maple that really should be trimmed. "My former landlady talks about knowing her since..."
Someone to Watch Over Me. Copyright © by Jill Churchill. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Jill Churchill has won the Agatha and Macavity Mystery Readers awards and was nominated for an Anthony Award for her bestselling Jane Jeffry series. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed Grace and Favor mysteries and lives in the Midwest.
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At one time siblings Robert and Lily were card-carrying members of the idle rich living off their father¿s fortune. When the stock market crashed in 1929, the duo was left destitute as their father committed suicide. Sadly neither has a skill to earn a decent living, upper class style that is. However, a relative comes to the rescue by dying and leaving his vast estate to the brother and sister if they move into his mansion in Upstate New York and support themselves for the next ten years. It proves very difficult to find work in 1932, but neither sit idle. Robert finds a body on the property and is determined to find out who he was, especially since Lily¿s new friend Roxanne is believed to have killed her husband though no corpse has been found. Lily knows her friend did not commit any homicide and decides to prove she is right. Is amateur sleuthing acceptable under the stipulations of their inheritance? The Brewsters do not care because they believe they must do the right thing regardless. Jill Churchill has written a delightful historical cozy that captures much of the ambiance of America¿s Great Depression. The bewitching Brewsters brood is adjusting to a radical lifestyle change while trying to help a neighbor. SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME is enjoyable as the characters are engaging, the plot strong and vibrant, and the mystery cleverly executed. Harriet Klausner
I also read the first two Grace and Favor mysteries, and would recommend this one. It has a different tone than the others, but it still carried the flavor of the thirties. It also provided a look into womens' roles during the Depression, from all different walks of life. I liked it.
I finished "Someone to Watch over me" by Jill Churchill this weekend. The third of the Grace and Favor series was a disappointment for me. While Lily and Robert are each trying to solve a mystery (one new, one old) those seemed to take a backseat to a lot of gripping about the Depression. While this is a major background fact for the series, this time round it was described rather than felt a lot of times and the characters never came to life. If I hadn't wanted to know who the mummy in the icehouse was, I would probably not have finished the book. And that is saying a lot from me, especially since I enjoyed the two earlier books.