Nancy Parker’s Chilling Conclusions by Julia Lee

The Blurb On The Back:

Dear Q

In case they keep it from The Children – this is to inform you there has been A MURDER!  What’s more – I was the one that found him.  Must meet.  Cannot tell when I will be free to speak to you so try to check this place every hour.  Will do my best to get here soon as I can.

N. P.

Nancy has a new job as a lady’s maid, and is accompanying her new employer on a visit to the grand and mysterious Midwinter Manor.  But things take a turn for the worse when Nancy discovers a dead body in the library.  With a house full of strange guests, who could possibly be the murderer?

What secrets lurk in the walls of Midwinter Manor?  Are all of the guests what they seem?  Who does the dead body belong to? 

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s January 1921, 4 months after NANCY PARKER’S SPOOKY SPECULATIONS.  Nancy Parker has not had a great Christmas: her Aunty Bee is unwell and Nancy’s lost her job on the fruit and veg stand, which her Gran seems to think is all her fault (even though it wasn’t!).  But then Nancy bumps into her former school teacher, Miss Lamb, who’s just got secretly engaged to Dr James MacDonald, the heir to Midwinter Manor (which currently belongs to his grandmother, the formidable Lady Steele).

Lady Steele has invited Miss Lamb and Dr MacDonald to attend one of famous gatherings of the rich and powerful so that she can assess whether Miss Lamb is a suitable bride for her grandson.  Conscious that she’s just an ordinary schoolteacher, Miss Lamb asks Nancy to pretend to be her lady’s maid so that she can fit in better with the others.  Nancy’s previous adventures means she knows something about being in service even if she’s never been a lady’s maid before and so the two make their way to the very grand Midwinter Manor where she discovers that Quentin Ives (from NANCY PARKER’S DIARY OF DETECTION) is also there with his parents, together with the novelist Jasper Grant (a famous novelist), Lily Lopez (the famous stage actress) with her French maid Sophie Le Blanc, Sir Marmaduke Roxburgh (the famous industrialist), the elderly Princess Canova, Lady Sleete’s companion Miss Kettle and lawyer, Mr Hawke, and the American inventor Cosway Otter with his two children Scottie and Beans (who are Ella Otter’s second cousins!).

But things quickly start to go wrong when a snow storm cuts off the Manor from all of the roads, preventing Dr James from joining them and leaving poor Miss Lamb to fend for herself.  They get worse when Nancy finds the body of a dead man in the library – a man who nobody seems to know and who was killed on the same night that Cosway Otter realised that someone had stolen some vitally important industrial drawings …

Nancy and Quentin team up to see if they can find out who the man is, why he was in the library and who killed him.  But it seems that everyone at Midwinter Manor has a secret and no one is quite what they seem …

The third in Julia Lee’s NANCY PARKER SERIES for children aged 9+ (charmingly illustrated by Chloe Bonfield) is a twisty but at times confusing crime mystery with a bloated cast of characters such that it became difficult to keep track of who was who while the reveal was a bit of a cop out but I enjoyed Quentin’s return and his obliviousness to his own faults, Nancy’s tenacity and the way Lee uses the post-World War I period.

I still enjoy the fact that Nancy is that rare beast – a working class character – and Lee makes good use of her roots and the way that those from higher classes view and abuse the same.  However I’m still bothered by the fact that her journal entries make a point about how bad at spelling she is, which I still think sends a bad message especially when she mis-spells words that Miss Lamb has told her how to spell correctly.

I really enjoyed Quentin in NANCY PARKER’S DIARY OF DETECTION so was glad to see his return here.  He’s a great creation – pompous with an exaggerated view of his own strengths and a tendency to overlook his weaknesses.  I wished that there had been more interaction between him and Nancy rather than the two conducting separate strands of inquiry, but I did enjoy his scenes with his social-climbing parents.  I also wished that there’d been a bit more between him, Scott and Beanie (who are confined to sidekick roles here) and while I liked their connection to Ella (who doesn’t make an appearance here), I didn’t see why both were needed given their role in the book, especially as they don’t get enough page time to really develop.

The book does suffer from having too many characters, some of whom really don’t seem to serve any function (notably Jasper Grant).  It would have been helpful for there to be a cast list so that I could have kept track of them all.  I think that the large cast operated against the plot because it created too many red herrings and the plot is also hampered slightly by the final reveal, which I found a bit of a disappointing cop out (albeit I could understand it given the age range of the audience).

Lee is strong on period – I especially like the references to this being after the War and the impact that this had – and Midwinter Manor is atmospheric and well drawn.  Chloe Bonfield’s illustrations are charming and add to the text (especially the drawings showing Nancy herself).

Weaknesses aside, I still enjoy this series enough to want to check out what happens to Nancy next and I’m hoping that in the next book, Nancy will be joined by both Quentin and Ella as it created an interesting dynamic.

NANCY PARKER’S CHILLING CONCLUSIONS was released in the United Kingdom on 4th January 2018.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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