Death at the Dinner Party by Emma Davies

Today I’m delighted to share my thoughts on Death at the Dinner Party, the bran new Adam and Eve novel from Emma Davies. My thanks to publisher Bookouture for the advance copy for review and including me on the tour: Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 27 May 2022
Publisher: Bookouture

About the Book

Francesca Eve, caterer extraordinaire, has come to Claremont House to work for the cream of society. A full breakfast spread? Simple. A glorious picnic lunch? Easy as pie. But a dead body for dinner was definitely not on the menu…

No sooner has Francesca Eve turned up for a jam-packed weekend of gourmet catering at a posh country house than she realises how challenging this event is set to be. Not only are the hosts wealthy – and demanding – beyond her wildest dreams, but each of the guests is more difficult than the last. But she never expected the host to turn up dead…

Suspicion falls on everyone in the house – could there be a murderer in their midst? Is the incredibly glamorous, and now extremely rich, widow really as upset as she’s making out? What secret is the housekeeper hiding? Whose money troubles are now forgotten? As the only person without a motive, Fran’s intimate knowledge of the house party puts her in the prime position to help the police.

As rumours swirl and guests’ pasts come to light, someone else is found dead. But when the police arrest their chief suspect, Fran becomes convinced they have the wrong person – the evidence is almost too neat to be true. So she decides to strike out alone, in the country house where the killer is still staying… Someone has killed twice to keep their secret safe. Will Fran be able to unmask them, or will this weekend turn out to be her deadliest job ever?

A page-turning cozy mystery packed with twists. If you love Faith Martin, M.C. Beaton and The Thursday Murder Club you’ll absolutely adore this unputdownable whodunnit.

My Thoughts

Oh I do like this pair. Francesca ‘Fran’ Eve and Adam Smith might be an unconventional duo – a forty something caterer and a twenty four year old computer game designer – and they certainly don’t fit the usual bill of amateur sleuths, but they really do work. And you just know that any case they find themselves wrapped up in with be a blend of mystery, misdirection and really good humour. This time around we find Adam working his socks off to make sure that it’s not Fran with the finger of suspicion pointed her way after it becomes clear that she was the last person to see her client, the all too recently deceased Keith Chapman, alive.

I love that Emma Davies has set her books in our home county of Shropshire, even if the actual setting of Claremont House may be entirely fictional. It actually lends itself perfectly to this story, the rambling country mansion in the middle of nowhere, suited to the over the top entertaining and clay pigeon shoots that inform the story. It’s exactly the kind of place you can imagine the former Mr Chapman and his wife having as a country hideaway, and perfect for this ‘locked house’ mystery. I say locked house, as the place has day rooms downstairs than I have rooms in my entire house and sounds like the kitchen alone is also probably larger than the entire floor plan of my downstairs too. Emma Davies has really created that sense of place and, with it, given us a very finite set of suspects whilst keeping the potential motives wide open. Is it the obvious solution, or something more complicated, tied up in the very intricate and contentious dealings that bring the Chapmans and their potential future business partners to Claremont House to begin with.

Fran and Adam are two really special characters. Fran is definitely the mother hen., keeping Adam on the right side of wrong, just about, and reining in his enthusiasm for investigation. Adam, on the other hand, has the impetuousness of youth, an abundance of enthusiasm and all the gadgets and knowhow to make unearthing clues that little bit easier, if not entirely legal. Between them they egg each other on, driven by a mixture of self preservation and intrigue, but you are guaranteed that when they are together you get a real sense of their bond, as well as a more than healthy dose of humour. There are few scenes when it is just the two of them together that don’t end with me smiling. There is just something about them that I like.

Add in DCI Nell Bradley, and the scene is set for some really classic moments, Nell having to act as Momma-bear on occasion to even keep Fran in check. Contrast this with the Chapman’s and their guests … Chalk and cheese. Not a one of them you couldn’t imagine as being capable of murder or some equally dark deed. Expect the victim, clearly, although there was no doubt in my mind, from the way he was portrayed, he had his own dark secrets. As the suspect list is finite, and in spite of plenty of misdirection, conflicting clues, I did work out the correct who, even the why, but the how took longer to become clear. And it was genius. A really clever touch by the author that had me smiling.

Pacing was great and the style, having the story start pretty well at the point of the murder with Fran recounting the course of events over the weekend to Nell as part of her testimony, really worked well. It meant clues being slowly revealed as the current day investigation kept interjecting. The sense of place was perfect, with Claremont House being so vivid in my mind I almost feel I’ve been there. Not sure I’d want the pleasure of cleaning it though. I’ll leave that to the housekeeper …

Another brilliant and fun mystery, with characters I am growing to love. If you like your crime on the lighter side this is definitely a series for you. Just don’t read it when you’re feeling peckish. So many recipes and so much food being served up by Fran, it had me hankering after the biscuits and pastries with every new chapter.

About the Author

After a varied career, Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous (and not necessarily true) anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: ‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty something mother of three.’ Well the job in the design studio didn’t work out but she’s now a forty something mother of three and is happy to report the rest of her dream came true.

After many years as a finance manager she now writes full time, and is far happier playing with words than numbers. She lives with her husband, three children, and two guinea pigs in rural Shropshire where she writes in all the gaps in between real life. It’s a county she adores, her love of its beautiful people and landscapes providing endless inspiration for her books, and in fact the only thing that would make Shropshire more idyllic is if it were by the sea.

Follow the tour: