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Sunday 7 August 2022

‘The Case of the Disgraced Duke’ by Cathy Ace

Published by Four Tails Publishing,
1st August 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-99055003-4

The WISE Enquiries Agency gets its name from the nationalities of the four women who run it. Carol is a Welsh woman who is brilliant at extracting and analysing computer data; Christine, an Irish aristocrat with an analytical mind and very useful connections; Scottish Mavis, the oldest of the group, organises their work and keeps them all in order; Annie is English, a Londoner, whose warm unaffected manner and skill at putting people at ease makes her a natural for undercover work. Although the four met and started their business in London, an early case for the Duke of Chellingworth was so successful that they were invited to relocate to the Welsh village of Anwen-by-Wye, near the Duke’s estate. In fact, Mavis lives at the Dower House with Althea, the octogenarian Dowager Duchess, who often assists in their local investigations.

At the start of The Case of the Disgraced Duke two of the team are not working at full power: Christine is recuperating from a bullet wound and Carol is struggling to complete an intricate and urgent online background check while her husband is away at a conference and her baby son is not allowing her much sleep. The last thing that Carol wants is an appeal from the owner of the village shop to discover who has stolen food from the shed behind her shop, however, Carol cannot let her friends in the village down, especially when the stolen goods were to be sold for charity.

At the same time, Annie has a solo case in the wealthier part of Swansea, working on a case that requires all her people skills, when the agency is employed by two sisters to check on the well-being of their father. This elderly man has started a relationship with a younger woman, whom his daughters believe is exploiting him and selling off his valuables while also estranging him from his family. Annie is very good at gaining the confidence of those around her and soon makes contact with the suspect and gains her trust but then the case takes an unexpected and disturbing twist, which diverts her investigation into a very different direction.

The WISE Women are grateful to the Chellingworth family who have been so supportive to them, and they are always willing to assist the Duke, Duchess and Dowager in any way they can. Henry Twyst, the eighteenth Duke is a naturally anxious man, and at the moment he is more worried than usual because his wife, Stephanie, is expecting their first child and he is driving her distracted by treating her like an invalid. The family take very seriously their good reputation and family name and they had been unaware that the thirteenth Duke of Chellingworth had an evil reputation until a television documentary producer enlightens them. According to the producer, the thirteenth Duke had been an addict who had wasted his inheritance, worse than this he had murdered two people, although because of his eminence he had never been tried for the crime and had then committed suicide. Henry and Stephanie are determined to discover the truth about the thirteenth Duke before their child is born. As the other team members finish their own cases, they pool their resources to probe the records of the past and try to discover what the thirteenth Duke was truly like. Was the man who was responsible for creating beautiful gardens at Chellingworth Hall really a villain or was he the victim of scurrilous rumours?

The Case of the Disgraced Duke is the fifth book in the series featuring the women of the WISE Enquiry Agency and both the series and the characters grow stronger all the time. In this book the three younger WISE women all have doubts about their personal lives, Carol is concerned that she is incapable of juggling her job and caring for her child, while Christine and Annie have doubts about their relationship commitments. There are several storylines in the book, ranging from the trivial theft from the village shop, the fascinating cold case that explores the power of rumour, and an investigation that starts off as routine but develops into something more serious, with long-term consequences for one of the team. The characterisation is excellent, with a cast of quirky, engaging characters that have all grown throughout the series and continue to develop in this book. This is a warm, delightful cosy crime novel: a page turner that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Cathy Ace was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales. With a successful career in marketing having given her the chance to write training courses and textbooks, Cathy has now finally turned her attention to her real passion: crime fiction. Her short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies. Two of her works, Dear George and Domestic Violence, have also been produced by Jarvis & Ayres Productions as ‘Afternoon Reading’ broadcasts for BBC Radio 4. Cathy now writes two series of traditional mysteries: The Cait Morgan Mysteries (TouchWood Editions) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (Severn House Publishers)

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 6 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
The Curse of the Concrete Griffin

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