Empty Nest (Birds of a Feather Mystery Series #2)

Empty Nest (Birds of a Feather Mystery Series #2)

by Marty Wingate

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101883396
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Series: Birds of a Feather Mystery Series , #2
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 298
Sales rank: 118,148
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Marty Wingate is the USA Today bestselling author of one previous Birds of a Feather mystery, The Rhyme of the Magpie, and the Potting Shed mysteries: The Garden Plot, The Red Book of Primrose House, and Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Wingate is a regular contributor to Country Gardens and other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Birds of a Feather and Potting Shed mysteries are planned.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

A blackbird announced my late arrival. His silhouette, barely discernible against the twilight sky, perched atop a turret of Hoggin Hall on the north wing, directly above my bedroom. His pink-pink-pink cut through the late-October evening—twilight in Suffolk. It was a mild rebuke, but I couldn’t ignore it. “Late, Julia Lanchester, you’re late!”

“Hush,” I called up to him in a stage whisper. “I know—gone seven o’clock. No need to broadcast.”

I shut the door of my Fiat and dashed between the other cars, glancing up at the outline of the Hall. A formidable brick edifice, the Fotheringill family home comprised a central building with two wings that extended like arms at ninety-degree angles, creating the courtyard. At each end of the south and north wings was a turret. Had the seventeenth-century architect been influenced by a holiday in Moorish Spain? No records remained detailing his inspiration. The Hall’s design resisted categorization, and, unable to pigeonhole its style, our leaflets at the Tourist Information Center described it only as the five-hundred-year-old seat of the Fotheringill family.

The moment my foot touched the flagstone entrance, the great oak door creaked open.

“Ms. Lanchester,” Thorne said, panting slightly at the exertion as he pushed the door closed behind me. Thorne, with cotton-ball hair, silver-framed glasses, and a face like crepe paper, had been butler to Lord Fotheringill since sometime before the Dark Ages.

He caught my coat as I slipped out of it. “I was held up,” I said, a bit out of breath myself, offering him my excuse first, to see if it would fly. “The Christmas Market—the third week of November is only a month away and there’s so much to do.”

I could go no further. The Smeaton-under-Lyme Christmas Market had been my idea, and so I couldn’t exactly complain about my workload. It had been a hard sell to Linus—Lord Fotheringill. He worried about the estate, and fell on the cautious side of decisions on how to increase revenue, while I—manager of the Tourist Information Center in the village—had taken to jumping to the opposite extreme.

“Has everyone arrived?” I asked.

Thorne gave a single nod as I piled scarf, gloves, and hat on top of my coat, draped across his arms. “Lord Fotheringill is showing the guests his father’s collection of nineteenth-century boxwood-and-ebony chess pieces, followed by drinks in the library. Mrs. Bugg is waiting in your room to help you dress.”

I glanced up the stairs, my eyes as ever drawn to the massive chandelier that hung from the three-story-high vaulted ceiling. But my ear caught low voices from an open doorway beyond the entry. “I’d best be on my way,” I said to Thorne. “I don’t want to be late for our guests.”

I darted to the staircase, circling the vast entry table, which held a glass vase the size of a cauldron that overflowed with autumnal leaves, berried stems, and lichen-covered twigs. I took my heels off and ran up to the first landing where the stairs split—the left side leading to the south wing, the right, to the north. I took the set to the right, all the while chastising myself—Don’t say “our” guests, Julia. They were Linus’s guests, as was I. The difference being that I lived here—temporarily.

I ran down the corridor of the north wing to my room and hesitated in the doorway. Mrs. Bugg sat in a chair by the window, her feet stretched out in front of her, arms folded across her stomach, and eyes closed. In her early fifties, the gray in her thick brown hair looked like threads of frost combed through. She wore it twisted into a generous, untidy swirl on top of her head. Mrs. Bugg, that is, Sheila—I was uncertain whether I should use her Christian name—kept to plain, solid-colored dresses and unremarkable aprons that, although they weren’t strictly uniforms, always gave that impression. Her sensible shoes told the tale of being on her feet for most of every day.
She had lit the fire for me. The applewood hissed, and the flames threw out a warm light across the floor and onto the four-poster bed. The far corner of the room opened into an octagonal-shaped alcove with windows all round—part of the turret at this end of the north wing, and just big enough for a bench seat, a few shelves, and a table.

Mrs. Bugg opened her eyes and leapt up. “I thought I heard you arrive,” she said, smiling.

“I’m late, I know,” I said, hastily dropping my bag in a chair and my heels on the floor. I stripped off my uniform—navy pencil skirt, tailored white blouse, and thin cardigan—and threw the pieces on the bed. “Has his Lordship been asking for me?”

“Only because he’s concerned that you work too hard,” she said, collecting my castoffs. “Here now, a fresh cup of tea for you.”

“Oh, you didn’t need to do that,” I said in total insincerity.

“It was no trouble. And I’ve your dress waiting—would you like to freshen up before you put it on?”

I’d like to take a long, hot bath and get in bed, that’s what I’d like. But instead I would splash water on my face, put on a dress far fancier than I was accustomed to, and go down to mingle with some of Linus’s contemporaries. Three earls and a baronet, if I remembered correctly, plus wives. Also attending—at my request and a huge relief to me—my friend and co-worker Vesta Widdersham, and her date, Akash Kumar, who ran a shop in the village. At least I’d know someone.

Mrs. Bugg hugged my clothes to her chest for a moment and beamed at me. “I know I’ve said it before, Ms. Lanchester, and I hope you don’t mind my repeating myself, but it’s so lovely to have a woman living at the Hall again to do for.” She caught my panicked look and added, “However temporary.”

Just how temporary depended on the time it took for workmen to carry out repairs on an entire row of cottages in the village—including my Pipit Cottage. Toxic mold had been found in the walls in August. The discovery of the mold at least answered the question of why my front door had never closed properly—it had been the damp.
I had had to move out on the spot—health and safety, the Environment Agency, I still didn’t know who decided these things. Homeless, but with no time to consider my options, Linus had taken me slightly off guard when he had insisted I move into Hoggin Hall. I’d had other offers—my dad and stepmother, Beryl, begged me to stay with them in Cambridge. Too far away. Vesta told me her box room would be ideal and I’d be no trouble, but Vesta and Akash had only just started seeing each other, and I would not be the gooseberry in that relationship. And besides, a box room isn’t good for much other than boxes. The Stoat and Hare had a few rooms above the pub, but they had been booked up to begin with. Once I’d moved into the Hall, it seemed ungrateful to pack up and leave after a week. And it was convenient—I was only a twenty-minute walk to the TIC, five on bicycle—Linus’s preferred method of travel round the estate. It meant I could pass my cottage each day on my way to work—my poor, abandoned cozy nest of a cottage. It looked so forlorn that after the first week, I’d gone out of my way to avoid it, walking down Mill Lane and behind Nuala’s Tea Room before coming back out onto the high street.
“I’m only increasing your workload, Mrs. Bugg. I don’t see how you keep up with the household duties you already have. Now with me to look after—I’m only another chore.”

“Not a bit of it. It brings back such lovely memories to be able to help you—even for a small gathering like this evening. I still remember the excitement of getting ready for large dinner parties when my mother was lady’s maid for Lord Fotheringill’s mother. When I came on as lady’s maid,” she said, and hesitated, “well, it was never quite the same with his Lordship’s first wife.”

I didn’t like her using the term “first wife.” After all, Linus had been married only once, to Isabel. Although they had divorced twenty years ago, she retained use of her title Lady Fotheringill forever, as long as she didn’t remarry. But “first wife” made it sound as if the vacancy had been advertised and Mrs. Bugg assumed I had applied for the post.

She continued wistfully. “And, of course, no little ones since the young master.”

The young master. I’d yet to meet Linus’s thirty-year-old son, Cecil, but I noted that both Mrs. Bugg and Thorne talked about him as if he were still in short trousers.

As she zipped me up, she took a more businesslike approach to prepping me for the evening. “You’ll be such a help to his Lordship—explaining to his friends all the ambitious plans for the estate—the farmshop and the Christmas Market.”

The farmshop was currently represented by a few derelict stone buildings on the far side of the estate; they had yet to be converted into anything resembling a shop. The market, like a ticking time bomb set to go off in four weeks, consumed my work days and spilled into after hours.

“Well, I shall do my best,” I said, tugging at the short hem as I checked myself out in the mirror. A new frock—I had decided that was what I needed to give me confidence to face this swarm of titled gentry at dinner. And although I enjoyed a good day out shopping in Cambridge or Oxford, with lunch and then late-afternoon tea or a glass of fizzy wine, I’d had not a moment to spare recently.

Forced to limit myself to village shops, I had dashed into the unlikely but sole offering—Dresses by Dot. The window display rarely changed at Dot’s, and although the dresses looked well made, they also looked as if they belonged on an eighty-year-old. But matronly Dot had given me a wink and taken me to the back of the shop, where I’d found this shocking-pink lace number with a high neck, a low back, long sleeves, and a snug fit.
I loved it—just the sort of thing that I so rarely splurged on. The perfect dress, Dot said with a nod, for a fancy dinner out with that special someone.

It would be just, I had thought. But now that I saw myself in the gilded French mirror on the nineteenth-century mahogany wardrobe in my room, I realized the dress might be too short, too tight, and too low for a dinner at Hoggin Hall.

I sighed. “Right, well, better get to it.”

Customer Reviews

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Empty Nest (Birds of a Feather Mystery Series #2) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoying the bird series, great story, mystery, romance & characters. Thanks for the fun.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrific light mystery.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
Empty Nest by Marty Wingate is the second book in A Birds of a Feather Mystery series. I did not read the first one so it took me a while to figure out who was who and how Julia Lanchester, the main character and narrator of the story ended up at this estate. She thirty-seven years old and divorced. She changed careers recently from being her father’s assistant (he is an ornithologist and hosts a show on BBC) to running a Tourist Information Centre in Smeaton- under-Lyme where she is responsible for creating and running events to attract tourists. She also started a new relationship with Michael, her father's new assistant. She is staying at Hoggin Hall the home of Lord Linus Fotheringill because Pipit Cottage (her home) had a severe mildew problem and is being fixed. One evening while at dinner at Hoggins Hall, Cecil Fotheringill, Linus' adult son shows up with a rather smarmy friend, Freddy Peacock. Cecil has decided it is time to learn about the running of the estate. He is rather surprised to see that his father has recently hired an estate manager, Geoffry Addleton. On the day of the cider festival, Julia finds poisoned birds in a field near the new estate manager’s cottage. Someone deliberately poisoned them and it is reported to the police as well as her father investigating. A few evenings later Julia comes home late and smells a fire. She discovers a fire in Freddy’s room with Freddy unconscious on the floor, or is he. Freddy is dead and it is ruled a homicide. When Lady Isabel Fotheringill shows up things start to get uncomfortable. When the main suspect turns out to be Cecil, Julia starts to investigate to support Linus and Cecil. When Julia starts to feel ill, her father suspects she is being poisoned. It seems the killer does not like the questions that Julia has been asking. Will Julia be able to find the killer before the killer does in Julia? As I stated at the beginning of this review, it is probably best that you read the first book in this series, "The Rhyme of the Magpie" first. The author does not provide a lot of clues to the murder and it is not obvious who the murderer is or why the murder occurred. There are some theories, but it is not until the end that we actually find out the motive for the crime. The mystery is not simple which makes the book more interesting. There is a lot of eating in this book, which made me hungry while reading it, but it plays an important part of the story. I enjoyed this book and will read the first one. I received a complimentary copy of Empty Nest from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
TessT More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I have not read any other books by Marty Wingate, I will be remedying this soon. Julie Lanchester is temporarily staying at Fotheringill Estate, while her small apartment is being cleared of toxic mold. Julie is the manager of the Tourist Info center in the village of Fotheringill. As Julie immerses herself deeper into her job and to the going-ons of the estate, just how deep will she go? She risks her reputation, her relationship with Michael Sedgwich, and danger to the area birds, which is her father's passion. Marty also writes the Potting Shed mysteries which so far, has 3 books and the Birds Of A Feather mysteries which has 2 books. I promise that bu this time next year I will catch up on them. ] FTC Full Disclosure - A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
Jarina More than 1 year ago
Empty Nest is the second book in Marty Wingate's Birds of a Feather mystery series. About six months has lapsed since the first installment, The Rhyme of the Magpie. Julia Lanchester, manager of the TIC (tourist information center) has been displaced from the cozy cottage she has been furnished as part of her position in Smeaton-under-Lyme. Toxic mold has been found in the walls and Julia finds herself in a lovely suite at the manor house, Hoggin Hall, while the work is done to restore the cottage. While living at the hall, Julia often assists Lord Fotheringill when he entertains. It is on such an occasion that surprise visitors arrive, Linus's son, Cecil and an acquaintance of his, Freddy Peacock. The next day the new estate agent, Geoffrey Addleton arrives, and in just a few days Julia comes across a large number of dead sparrow hawks that appears to have been poisoned. Just a few days later Freddy Peacock is found dead in his locked room. Coincidence? During the investigation, all are questioned, some are under suspicion, and Linus's son, Cecil seems to be a person of interest. At this point, his mother and Linus's former wife, Isabel, arrives at the manor and makes herself at home. With so many new people on the estate, the clues begin adding up. Positioned in the middle of the mystery, Julia finds clues as well as conflicting information, but follows both hunch and data to a point where the culprit begins targeting Julia. In yet another page turning mystery, Marty Wingate has skillfully woven a smart story that brings together past occurrences and current events. Dotted with clues for you to follow along with Julia and developing characters of the series, Ms. Wingate has created another winner. I highly recommend this book, this series, and this author
dibbylodd More than 1 year ago
I like this author. Reading this series is like putting on a comfy pair of pants or shoes. Just right. This feeling hit me as soon as I started the book. The story line is clever. The people are interesting. The mystery is solid. There are a few "How could she be stupid enough to do that/go there?" moments, but not enough to put me off. I look forward to more.
CozyMysteryLover1 More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I've read by this author and it was a very pleasant surprise. Julia Lanchester is a witty and funny character, I found myself chuckling along at some of her antics. When toxic mold forces Julia out of her charming little home, she finds herself living in one of Earl Fotheringill's spacious rooms in Hoggin Hall. Julia becomes quite comfortable living in the Hall, however, she can't be sure of the Earl's feelings towards her, and she doesn't see him as a love interest, after all, she is in a relationship with the dashing Michael. When the Earl's son returns to the Hall, Julia feels a bit put out. As manager of the Tourist Information Centre, it's her job to make sure everything runs smoothly in the quaint little town. When Julia discovers some poisoned sparrowhawks, this leads to murder, deception, secrets and lies. I found this book to be well written and all the characters have wonderful personalities. Julia Lanchester is a likeable character and she brings a little fun into the mystery. I will definitely look for more in this series. I give this book 5 stars and would be happy to recommend it to friends and other cozy mystery readers. I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Mama_Cat More than 1 year ago
‘Empty Nest’ embodies the charm of an English estate, mingling old-world and 21st century management ideals. It is second in the ‘Birds of a Feather Mysteries’, which I have enjoyed since reading the earlier ‘The Rhyme of the Magpie’. One sees birds of England through the eyes of Julia Lanchester, daughter of famous ornithologist Rupert. Julia is Manager of the Tourist Information Center at Fotheringill Estate for Lord Linus Fotheringill. Julia’s cottage on the estate was undergoing removal of toxic mold, so Linus invited her to stay at his huge family home until work was complete. While staying there, Julia regularly dined with Linus, often discussing business. Part of her position included promoting tourism within the estate village and businesses, and she planned several events that would welcome visitors. One evening Linus had guests for dinner, older couples who misunderstood the working relationship between Julia and Linus. She unwittingly offended a guest when voicing her opinion about estates that still conducted the illegal practice of poisoning sparrow hawks to “preserve” the number of partridges. The drama increased with the arrival of two unexpected men: Cecil, Linus’ long-absent son, and a friend, Freddy Peacock, auctioneer of high-dollar antiquities. Cecil’s intention was to learn proper management of the estate since he was the heir. Cecil began immediately, particularly asking questions of Julia. In addition, Linus had, for the first time in years, hired an estate manager, Mr. Addleton, who would live on the property. Cecil and Addleton each had different roles, but together they learned the estate and the businesses therein. Freddy Peacock enjoyed touring the family home and eyeing various artwork and antiques as if costing them for sale. Julia returned late one night after a date with Michael, her father’s production manager. Smelling smoke, she saw smoke coming from under Peacock's locked door. Presumably with Freddie inside. Once the door was broken down, Peacock seemed unconscious; Julia tried to drag him to the hall and performed CPR as he wasn’t breathing. The investigation showed that Freddy was already dead before the fire started. And the primary suspect? Cecil. What the motive could be was anyone’s guess. Yet another surprise guest arrived: Isabel, Cecil’s mother and Linus’ ex-wife, presumably to help Cecil with potential charges. This series is written by Marty Wingate, who has a way of sharing history, ornithology, and horticulture that invites the reader’s fascination. This, coupled with a talent for plotting and defining characters that the reader cares about, make the series unique. The characters come alive through their conversations, actions, and in Julia’s case, her thoughts and concerns. Julia is a caring supervisor to her employee, and enjoys the staff at the family home, walking and watching birds with Thorne, the butler, and befriending Mrs. Bugg, who oversaw the home care. The plot is ingenious, confounding this reader until an important clue is revealed. Even then, motives were hard to fully understand without closely following this spunky, intelligent sleuth’s thought processes. The twists and turns make for an enjoyable yet intense read, with a completely satisfying ending. I highly recommend this excellent novel! I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Random House-Alibi, via NetGalley for the purpose of providing an honest review. No moneys were received.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
Empty Nest by Marty Wingate is the second book in A Birds of a Feather Mystery series. Julia Lanchester is thirty-seven years old. She changed careers recently. She used to be her father’s assistant (he is an ornithologist and hosts a show on BBC) Pipit Cottage (her home) had a severe mildew problem and she is staying at Hoggin Hall with Lord Linus Fotheringill (her boss). Julia the manager of the Tourist Information Center in Smeaton-under-Lyme. She also creates events to attract tourists to the hall and town. One evening Julia is enjoying dinner with Linus, Vesta Widdersham (co-worker and friend), and Akash Kumar (Vesta’s boyfriend) when Cecil Fotheringill shows up. Cecil is Linus’ thirty year old son, but he rarely comes home. He has decided it is time to learn about the running of the estate (about time) and he has brought a friend, Freddy Peacock, with him. Freddy and Cecil worked at the auction rooms in London together. The next day the new estate manager, Geoffrey Addleton, arrives. Dinners are starting to become something Julia wishes to avoid. On the day of the cider festival, Julia finds poisoned birds in a field near the new estate manager’s cottage. Someone deliberately poisoned them. A few evenings later Julia comes home late (after being with her boyfriend, Michael Sedgewick) and smells a fire. She discovers a fire in Freddy’s room with Freddy on the floor. Poor Freddy is dead and he was poisoned. The main suspect turns out to be Cecil. He refuses to tell the police is whereabouts for that evening (for a very silly reason). Then Cecil’s mother, Lady Isabel Fotheringill (Linus and Isabel are divorced) shows up to help her son (she is overbearing and demanding). Julia starts looking into matters to try and clear Cecil for Linus (he is so upset and Julia is afraid he will confess to save his son). Then Julia starts to feel ill. Turns out she is being poisoned. It seems the killer does not like the questions that Julia has been asking. Will Julia be able to find the killer before the killer does in Julia? In order to understand the characters and dynamics in Empty Nest, you really need to read first book in the A Birds of a Feather (otherwise you will be lost and confused). The book is told in the first person from Julia’s point-of-view. There are long sentences, a lot of rambling, and a very bumbling Julia. Julia is supposed to be a manager who is capable of running large events. The rambling and bumbling do not go with that description. The author did not provide a lot of clues nor was there much action during the majority of the book (except the murder). The mystery is not simple which makes the book more interesting. I am amazed at all the tea and food. It seems if you stop in anywhere, you get tea and treats (they must have had tea over 20 times in the book). It was like the author was trying very hard to make sure we knew they were in England where they have tea. I give Empty Nest 3 out of 5 stars. I do not believe this series is for me. I received a complimentary copy of Empty Nest from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
psoccermom More than 1 year ago
This is my first Marty Wingate book and it will most certainly not be my last. I plan to go back and read the first book in this amazing series. While reading you are transported to a British estate called Fotheringill. I love how the author is able to catch the essence of the British landscape and countryside. She goes into great detail while describing the village and surrounding estates. She also captures the beauty and majesty of the different birds noted throughout this book. Especially the Sparrow Hawk. Julia Lanchester has had to move out of her beloved home in the village due to black mold. She is now residing at Earl Linus Fotheringill's, her employers home while he is taking great care to repair her home. She has taken the job of tourism developer to help with the economy. This is beginning to pay off and she is coming up with great plans like Cider Days, The Christmas Market, and a spur of the moment Quiz night at Royal Oaks pub. She is also very happy in her relationship with Michael who happens to be working with her father Rupert Lanchester. He is a well known and loved Ornithologist. One day Linus's son, Cecil Vicount Palgrave shows up unannounced with a friend, Freddy Peacock and puts a kink in everything. Things are just not adding up for Julia and she feels that he has an ulterior motive. Is he really here to learn the ins and outs of running an estate??? Things begin to spiral out of control when Freddy is found dead in his locked room. Then Cecil's mother Isabel shows up and everything goes from bad to worse! Julia and Michael begin their own investigation into who would kill Freddy and why? Things are not what they seem and secrets, lies, and deceptions are pulled out of the closet that some people will go to great lengths to keep hidden. This book is full of secrets, surprises, new life, murder and twists and turns that you will not see coming. I look forward to the next installment in this series. I received this book from NetGalley for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Julia's cottage is being repaired, so she is staying at the estate house. The Hall is a busy place. Lord Fotheringill's son, Cecil, has returned home, with a friend. There is also a new estate manager. When Cecil's friend dies, Julia is once again on the case...with the help of her celebrity father and her boyfriend. Julia is trying to sort out her relationship with Michael in addition to finding a killer and keeping tourists coming to town. The second in the Birds of a Feather mystery series, Empty Nest is an enjoyable cozy and I liked forward to another addition to this series!
ArizonaJo More than 1 year ago
Empty Nest by Marty Wingate is the second book in the A Birds of a Feather mystery series and was an enjoyable read. I enjoy the author's writing style and am reading both of her current series. Julia is keeping busy at the Tourist Information Center and her work is beginning to pay off with increased tourism in the village. Julia has temporarily been housed at Linus' home because her cottage needs mold remediation and some repairs to be livable again. Michael, Rupert, Vesta, Bee and Beryl are all back in this book and it was fun to visit with them again and see how their lives have been. Readers finally get to meet Linus' son, Cecil, and his ex-wife, Isabel, as well as a new estate agent and a "friend" of Cecil's. Complex characters, murder, plenty of twists and red herrings, bumps in the road for Julia and Michael's romance, colorful descriptions of the countryside and birds that make you feel that you are right there and a past that that will be revealed for better or worse all contribute to an enjoyable read. I was given an ARC by NetGalley and Alibi Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago