Daughter of Baal by Gill McKnight is a whodunit mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie. I don’t typically read mysteries, but I never have problems reading anything by Gill McKnight. In the spirit of full disclosure, I haven’t read the previous two stories in The Law Game series, but this story was extremely enjoyable nonetheless.
Set in the British countryside of the 1920s, the action starts when Jones, Lady Margo’s chauffeur and aide, pulls up to a stately manor for the wedding of Margo’s cousin, Melisandrine. Before long, people start dying. Horror of horrors, not only are the servants dropping dead, but the groom-to-be and the guests are expiring as well. Trapped on the estate by the police who have decided Jones must have something to do with the crime, Margo and Jones decide to investigate for themselves. After all, these mysterious deaths can’t be the result of the cursed icon currently in residence in the estate’s gardens. Or can they?
The story is told from the point of view of Jones and Lady Margo. Each has her own distinct voice, and were fun to get to know.
Lady Margo strikes me as rather asexual, and is confused or oblivious to the flirtations and predilections of her fellow humans. While this oblivion might lead to blind spots for an amateur sleuth, Jones does an excellent job filling her in. She is able to use this information to work her way closer to the perpetrator. I loved Margo, her observations on those around her were usually to the point, and she doesn’t miss a thing. While she is a member of the upper crust of society, she is free of many of the airs that come with this elevated position.
Jones is a little harder to get to know. As Margo’s chauffeur and aide, she sees a much different part of society than her employer does. A Native-American of Navajo ancestry, Jones is very of a different world than Margo. As a gender non-conforming woman and a lesbian to boot, she is automatically viewed with suspicion by the genteel folk of the British countryside. Her character is much more reserved and closed off than Margo’s, and she is written in a way that emphasizes this remove from others. I initially had a hard time getting into Jones’ head, even when reading from her point of view. However, the further I got in the story, the more I realized that the writing style mirrors Jones’ alienation from society. By the end of the story, I was very much smitten with Jones and her stoic observations of the society she is kept separate from.
The rest of the characters are what you’d expect from a wedding in rural England. There’s a lord who dabbles in antiquities, and his daughters. The wedding guests include the local doctor, a grumpy minister, neighbours, and more. The prospective son-in-law is a gigantic pill who spends much of his time completely drunk.
The Writing Style
McKnight pulls together a tightly-plotted mystery in a limited number of pages. While it’s missing some of the laugh-out-loud moments I’ve gotten used to reading in her novels, the characters are engaging and interesting, and the mystery kept me guessing up until the end. I especially appreciated the back and forth between Margo and Jones’s points of view. It’s quite a contrast to see the privileged Englishwoman against the servant who is an outsider in so many different ways. The plot accentuates that point as well when Jones becomes a suspect by virtue of her otherness and no other reason.
An entertaining and engaging cast sleuthing across the English countryside during a secret murder spree, what could be more fun? Add in the smoking-hot Jones, and this is the full package.
This is the third novella in The Law Game series, which is not so much a con as a warning. I had no problem picking up the thread of the story. It helps that this is very much a self-contained story. I did have a small problem placing the story at the beginning, but that’s what I get for snapping up another Gill McKnight story without reading the blurb. Both quibbles are very minor on my part, and I enjoyed Daughter of Baal immensely.
Check this story out. It’s a very quick read, as all of McKnight’s stories are, and even more so by virtue of it being a novella. It may be a quick read, but it’s a very fun one. If you yearn for Agatha Christie-type mysteries with lesbian characters, you won’t be disappointed. If you appreciate a well-crafted mystery that keeps you guessing until the end, this is your story. All I need to do now is pick up the other two in this series and ensconce myself for the weekend.
Excerpt from Daughter of Baal by Gill McKnight
“Margo.” Melisandrine’s voice dropped to a whisper. An urgent whisper. “I need to talk to you.”
“Yes?” Margo took a step back, surprised by the fervor of the request.
“It is a very private thing I must say.” She looked around her furtively. “It is about,” she hesitated, “the well.”
“Yes?” Margo wracked her brains to recall any previous discourse about a well and could find none, so it must have been some time ago.
Melisandrine stared at her queerly. “I would like to go down to the well with you,” she said.
“You have a well? Here, on the grounds?” This was news to Margo. “Is it a new feature?”
“I’m referring to the Well of Loneliness.” Melisandrine all but hissed.
“Not if we go together.” Margo tried to cheer Melisandrine up with a bright smile. “Do we need pennies to make a wish?”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9783955337186
- Publisher: Ylva Publishing
The Law Game Series
Note these are all stand alone. They are a series because they have a theme of crime.
- Requiem For Immortals by Lee Winter
- Archer Securities by Jove Belle
- Daughter of Baal by Gill McKnight
- Evolution of an Art Thief by Jessie Chandler
- If Looks Could Kill by Andi Marquette
Gill McKnight Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Daughter of Baal by Gill McKnight. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.