Someone to Watch over Me (Grace and Favor Series #3)

Someone to Watch over Me (Grace and Favor Series #3)

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by Jill Churchill
     
 

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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

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Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After two paperback originals in this cozily charming series (Anything Goes and In the Still of the Night), Churchill makes an auspicious move to hardcover. In the long, hot summer of 1932, lovely Lily Brewster and her elegant brother, Robert, who've been left penniless by the 1929 crash, are living at a Hudson River estate, thanks to the generosity of their late Uncle Horatio. They must oversee their uncle's interests with the aid of lawyer Mr. Prinney and his hardworking wife, mindful that nothing will be officially theirs until they've occupied the place for 10 years. While Lily joins the Voorberg Ladies League to do her charitable best for the local village, her brother tends to the estate grounds. Robert discovers a long-dead body in an old icehouse, and no one knows who he was or how or when he was put there. Then a fresher body turns up, that of the out-of-work husband of one of Voorburg's hardest-working Ladies Leaguers. As Lily pursues one puzzle and Robert the other, Jack Summer, editor of the local paper, treks to Washington, D.C., to investigate a gathering of veterans seeking government relief from the Depression. Churchill neatly ties the disparate threads of the story together, all the while underscoring with subtle compassion the era's tragedies of daily life, major and minor. In contrast to the author's long-running Jane Jeffry series, which has become predictable, this one is still fresh and winning. (Nov. 13) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-When the stock market crash of 1929 takes the family fortune with it, Lily and Robert Brewster are lucky enough to inherit their great-uncle's home in New York state. Under the provisions of the will, they must live there for 10 years and earn their own salaries before the inheritance will legally be theirs. They take in boarders and begin plans to renovate the estate, until a mummified body of a murdered man is found in the ice house. Robert begins working on solving the crime just as Lily becomes involved in solving the murder of an acquaintance's husband. Churchill aptly describes the day-to-day life of people coping with the hardships of the Depression. She details the roles of wives, mothers, and single women in this era of poverty and harsher moral standards. Men face the challenges of finding employment and providing for their families. The result is a historically accurate portrayal of the people and the time. The mysteries add another dimension to the historical novel, each plot complementing the other.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Because Lily Brewster and her brother Robert live in a big house and drive a Duesenberg, their neighbors in Voorburg-on-Hudson assume they're well off. They don't know that the pair, wiped out in the crash of '29, will inherit their late great-uncle Horatio's estate, including that grand house and automobile, only if they satisfy his executor, Elgin Prinney, that they can support themselves for ten years. And what better way to support themselves than investigating the odd murder-like the case of a mummified corpse Robert finds in Horatio's long-disused icehouse, or the more recent demise of local vegetable grower Roxanne Anderson's lecherous husband Donald? Both these pale homicides are eclipsed by a subplot in which Jack Summer, editor of the newspaper Lily and Robert don't own, goes to Washington to report on the Bonus Army March-an episode that has precious little to do with the murders but at least generates some emotional warmth when President Hoover sends in troops to fire on the veterans of the world war. Even the home-front intrigue has less to do with crime and punishment-the tiny mystery breaks every rule for plotting the detective novel-than soap opera, as Lily's heroic sacrifice in getting her hair permed twice in order to pump a key witness upstages any interest in whodunit. The lack of momentum in Lily's and Robert's hardcover debut won't surprise Churchill's fans, who may well be curious to see how she handles a tale set in the '30s, the spiritual matrix for her contemporary Jane Jeffry series (Mulch Ado About Nothing, 2000, etc.).

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061031236
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/28/2002
Series:
Grace and Favor Series, #3
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
647,469
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.68(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

{Late July, 1932}

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.

"The farmer can't buy enough seeds or hire help," Robert went on. "The middleman can't afford to ship produce around the country, and that hurts the railroads. Dominoes falling. Or a downward spiral, if you want to look at it that way."

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."

"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.

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