Series: Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins #1
Published by Macmillan on 2014-09-23
Genres: Historical Mystery
Source: the publisher
Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins make an incomparable pair of sleuths in the start of a delightful new series.
Following her successful appearance at an Embassy Ball—where Eliza Doolittle won Professor Henry Higgins’ bet that he could pass off a Cockney flower girl as a duchess—Eliza becomes an assistant to his chief rival Emil Nepommuck. After Nepommuck publicly takes credit for transforming Eliza into a lady, an enraged Higgins submits proof to a London newspaper that Nepommuck is a fraud. When Nepommuck is found with a dagger in his back, Henry Higgins becomes Scotland Yard’s prime suspect. However, Eliza learns that most of Nepommuck’s pupils had a reason to murder their blackmailing teacher. As another suspect turns up dead and evidence goes missing, Eliza and Higgins realize the only way to clear the Professor’s name is to discover which of Nepommuck’s many enemies is the real killer. When all the suspects attend a performance of Hamlet at Drury Lane, Eliza and Higgins don their theatre best and race to upstage a murderer.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Wouldn’t It Be Deadly is delightful! I admit I was initially a little skeptical – Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins as amateur detectives?! But it works beautifully. The mystery plot is well-crafted, with plenty of red herrings and twists and turns. The authors are scrupulously fair when it comes to clues; they don’t hide anything from the reader, but I’ll be surprised if you spot the real murderer among all the potential ones. The story gets off to a slightly slow start, but once the victim turns up dead, things move along briskly but with plenty of time to enjoy the characters and setting.
And the characters, of course, are the real draw here. All of Shaw’s well-known characters from Pygmalion (and My Fair Lady) are here, and the characterization is nearly pitch-perfect. Eliza has all the spunk and fire she shows in the play, and her dialog veers believably from genteel young lady to Cockney flower seller depending on the situation. Prof. Higgins displays the same mix of insufferable arrogance and a growing fondness and admiration for his (now former) student; his mannerisms and speech are well-matched to the man I know from the play. Colonel Pickering is convincingly kind and avuncular, and the professor’s mother is strong-minded, sympathetic, and often exasperated with her son, just as she is in the books. Even Mrs. Pierce, the long-suffering housekeeper, Eliza’s father Albert, and the feckless Freddy Eynsford-Hill are true to type.
But for all their consistency with those in Shaw’s play, the characters aren’t static. Ireland has given them more depth, more complexity, fleshed out their backgrounds (at least in Eliza and Higgins’s cases) and allowed them to grow. And she introduces new characters: the various suspects, many of whom, like Eliza, have risen above their origins. At least one of these, a Detective Inspector at Scotland Yard, is likely to become a regular in the series.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I’m already plotting to give it to one or two friends for Christmas. I’ll be on the lookout for book two — and I hope I don’t have to wait too long!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2014