Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Showcase: Murder at Wedgefield Manor by Erica Ruth Neubauer a Jane Wunderly Mystery

Today I'm showcasing yet another fantastic new release, Murder at Wedgefield Manor, from fave cozy publishers, Kensington Books. This is #2 in her Jane Wunderly Mysteries.

ISBN-13:  9781496725882
Publisher: Kensington 
Release Date: 3-30-2021
Length: 288 pp
Jane Wunderly Mysteries #2
Buy It: Publisher/ Amazon/ B&N/ IndieBound


In the wake of World War I, Jane Wunderly--a thoroughly modern young American widow--is traveling abroad, enjoying the hospitality of an English lord and a perfectly proper manor house, until murder makes an unwelcome appearance...

England, 1926: Wedgefield Manor, deep in the tranquil Essex countryside, provides a welcome rest stop for Jane and her matchmaking Aunt Millie before their return to America. While Millie spends time with her long-lost daughter, Lillian, and their host, Lord Hughes, Jane fills the hours devouring mystery novels and taking flying lessons--much to Millie's disapproval. But any danger in the air is eclipsed by tragedy on the ground when one of the estate's mechanics, Air Force veteran Simon Marshall, is killed in a motorcar collision.

The sliced brake cables prove this was no accident, yet was the intended victim someone other than Simon? The house is full of suspects--visiting relations, secretive servants, strangers prowling the grounds at night--and also full of targets. The enigmatic Mr. Redvers, who helped Jane solve a murder in Egypt, arrives on the scene to once more offer his assistance. It seems that everyone at Wedgefield wants Jane to help protect the Hughes family. But while she searches for answers, is she overlooking a killer hiding in plain sight?

Read an excerpt:

England, 1926
One wheel of the biplane slammed into the ground, the wings tipping precariously, before the second wheel made contact and the little plane righted itself, hustling along the soft dirt track before coming to an untidy stop. The engine roared, the propeller a blur before my eyes.
My heartbeat evened back out as well. I had thought for sure we would crash.
“Not bad for your first landing!” I heard the shout as I turned in the seat to look at the man seated behind me. “Do you want to go again?”
I felt a grin split my face. Yes. I wanted nothing more than to go again.
“Push the throttle in just like I showed you. Steer with the pedals. Let’s go!”
I pushed the de Havilland forward, steering awkwardly with the pedals beneath my feet, the plane twisting too far to the right before I got the hang of them. I turned the aircraft around and started in the opposite direction down the track, this time with a light wind at our backs. My body was tense until the plane lifted into the air and sailed over the tree line. Even then it was difficult to fully relax, despite knowing the instructor had a matching set of controls at his seat and would take over if we found ourselves in serious trouble.
It felt as though an angel’s breath could blow us either up or down—and the few scudding clouds below us wouldn’t do anything to soften our fall. But soaring above the English countryside, rolling green hills dotted with grazing sheep, leaves turning gold and orange, I felt every care slip away. My heart filled to bursting with a sense of freedom, of open air and endless possibilities. After too short a time, I brought the plane back around to Lord Hughes’s estate and lined up with the dirt track running along the edge of his property. This time the landing went much more smoothly, both wheels gently kissing the ground together before rolling us to a stop. A small group had gathered in the adjoining green space, awaiting our return.
“Much better! That was nearly perfect.” Group Captain Christopher Hammond pushed his goggles back as the engine stopped, revealing his twinkling brown eyes. He hoisted himself out of the back seat as I pushed my own goggles back onto the leather helmet strapped firmly to my head. I couldn’t help the smile that refused to leave my face.
Until I saw the look on my aunt Millie’s.
“I don’t know why you insist on taking these lessons, Jane.” Millie’s voice carried across the distance. She flatly refused to come anywhere near the shiny yellow biplane, as though mere proximity might catch her up and carry her into the sky. “It’s incredibly dangerous. And if you crash and die, how will I explain it to your father?” I nearly asked if having to give an explanation would truly be the worst part of my dying in a plane crash, but held my tongue instead.
“It’s perfectly safe.” Group Captain Hammond offered me a hand and helped me dismount from the front seat as I gingerly stepped onto the lower wing and then alighted onto the ground. “The Moth has an excellent safety record.” Hammond winked at me before turning toward where Millie stood, arms crossed and scowl affixed.
Lord Edward Hughes, the owner of the estate we stood on, patted Millie’s arm before coming forward to shake the group captain’s hand. “Good show, Hammond. Do you need help stowing it?” Lord Hughes was still a handsome man, despite being a few years senior to my aunt Millie. His gray hair was thick, and he was tall and lean like his daughter Lillian, his love of the outdoors and sports giving him an air of ruddy good health. Lord Hughes’s small white dog leaped around in circles before chasing over and flinging itself at Hammond’s legs. He bent down and gave the creature a scratch behind the ears before finding a small stick to toss. Rascal took off after it, tongue flapping in the breeze.
“No, Your Lordship. I’ll just roll it into the barn for now. We’ll probably need to refuel before we take her back up. Did you still want to go this afternoon?” Hughes nodded enthusiastically as the gentlemen walked around the aircraft, discussing logistics and the little plane. Lord Hughes and the group captain were long-standing acquaintances, and Hughes had invited the experienced flight instructor out to his estate for an exchange of sorts—Hammond would get an extended vacation in the country and Hughes would pay for flight lessons.
I removed my leather helmet and shook my auburn bob back out. It was almost a disappointment to be back on solid ground. I turned from the men and met Millie’s continuing glare with a smile. There was no way to explain to my aunt how soaring in the sky was the precise opposite of the claustrophobia that had plagued me since my marriage. Much like there was no way for me to explain to her how terrible my marriage had been.
“Shall we head back to the house?” Millie turned on her heel without answering and I trotted to catch up with her.
I could see my breath in the crisp morning air. For once, England favored us with pure blue skies, and the bright sunshine cut through the chill. Millie and I traveled the well-worn path between the house and the barn that housed several cars as well as the airplane I’d just landed—Lord Hughes had the Moth on an extended loan from one of the Royal Aero Clubs. Beside the makeshift garage sat the stables, which now housed only two horses, the rest of the herd having been sold off years ago.
We approached the manor house, a large gray stone building with a portico and white marble columns gracing the front entrance. It was a large and utterly imposing home, especially compared to the compact brick houses I was used to back in Boston. Coming from the rear of the building, Millie and I let ourselves into a small entrance off the kitchen where there was an area to leave our long wool coats and scarves. I sat on a bench and pulled off the heavy boots that I borrowed from Lillian, as well as the thick wool socks, and changed back into my own flats. By the time I had finished, Millie had already disappeared down the hall. I decided to leave her to her mood instead of following her.
I poked my head into the warm kitchen where the smell of freshly baked bread scented the air. The large room had obviously once supported a much larger household and staff, but now was the sole domain of Martha Fedec. Lord Hughes had updated a few items to make Martha’s work easier, including the plumbing system. A state-of-the-art stove stood to one side, the large stone fireplace gracing one wall now largely unused, and the racks of pots and pans hanging above the scarred wooden table shone with their newness.
Martha looked up from her large pot bubbling on the stove and glanced at me. “In or out, Miss Jane. Doorposts are the devil, you know.” I didn’t know, but did as she said and stepped fully into the room.
“Smells delicious in here, Martha.”
Now Martha beamed at me, red curls peeking out from beneath her sensible white cap. She was tall and thin, the opposite of what you would expect of such an excellent cook. Flour dusted the apron that covered her gray dress and was smeared across one pale cheek. She had been running Lord Hughes’s household for years, and her clear skin and brisk manner made it impossible to tell if the woman was thirty-five or fifty. Or anywhere in between. And her vague accent—as well as her affinity for hearty stews—made me wonder where she originally hailed from.
“You will have some for dinner. Along with red stew. But for now, there is still some food laid out in the breakfast room if you’re hungry.” I smiled and thanked her, leaving her to work in peace.
Since our escapades in Egypt, including Millie’s near-miss with death, my aunt decided that she wanted to spend time in England with her daughter, Lillian, instead of returning home to America as we originally planned. I was happy enough to go along with the change of plan, wanting to better acquaint myself with my newfound cousin, and so we found ourselves at Lord Hughes’s estate in the countryside of Essex. It was a quiet life, unless of course you were interested in golf. Lord Hughes had set up a detailed course on the sprawling grounds for Lillian to practice on, and the girl spent the majority of her waking hours doing just that. Lillian’s enthusiasm for the sport knew no bounds, and when the weather was poor she needed another way to use her clubs—thus the putting setup in what used to be the great hall.
I had no interest in the sport. Or any sport, really.
Days at the Hughes estate, fondly called Wedgefield by the family, had come to look much the same for me, a far cry from the danger and excitement of our trip to Egypt. The quiet had initially been something of a relief, but that had quickly passed only to be replaced by a restless energy I couldn’t seem to shake. Luckily, Group Captain Hammond was on hand to teach me to fly—we went up every morning, weather permitting. In the two weeks since our arrival I had already logged twenty hours and felt fairly confident in my takeoffs. I hoped before long the landings would feel just as natural.
Afternoons found me either walking the grounds or curled up in Hughes’s comfortable library with a good book. Lord Hughes had an excellent selection of current novels, and I was able to find a few murder mysteries to while away the time I spent on the ground. Even solving a real-life murder hadn’t dampened my enthusiasm for the genre.
My mind wandered to that recent mystery and my partner in solving it, and I quickly pushed the thought away. It wasn’t any concern of mine what Redvers was up to, or even where he was in the world. I hadn’t heard anything from him since my arrival in England, nor did I expect to. With a firm shake of my head, I took myself to the breakfast room for a post-flight snack.



As Neubauer’s sprightly follow-up to 2020’s Murder at the Mena House opens in 1926, American widow Jane Wunderly is taking flying lessons at the Essex estate of Lord Hughes, her aunt Millie’s former lover, and getting acquainted with Lord Hughes’s daughter, Lillian, who aspires to a golfing career. After Simon Marshall, a mechanic on the estate and a troubled WWI veteran, dies in an accident, Jane is disturbed to learn the car he was driving had been tampered with. She teams up with the handsome Mr. Redvers , who has resurfaced after their earlier encounter in Egypt, to investigate. Soon Lillian’s cousin Alistair is poisoned, Lillian’s friend Marie narrowly evades an attack, Jane is pushed into a stream by an unknown assailant, and Jane’s flying instructor is hit over the head. Though attentive fans might guess the perpetrator, the country house intrigue and an unconventional chase reap rewards. Readers will look forward to further cases of the intrepid Jane and the mysterious Mr. Redvers. Agent: Ann Collette, Rees Literary. (Apr.)Publishers Weekly

Which of the veddy British suspects murdered the handsome young visitor?

England, 1926. Exuberant narrator Jane Wunderly brings her yellow biplane in for less than a smooth landing, much to the consternation of her Aunt Millie but with the approval of Group Capt. Christopher Hammond and Lord Edward Hughes, on whose estate she’s just landed. Plucky Jane can’t help musing about the exciting Egyptian mystery that she recently solved and about Redvers, the dashing man who helped her. Where might he be? Back at the Hughes manor house, the company, which includes Millie’s daughter, Lillian, and Lillian’s friend Marie, settles in for dinner and mahjong. Flight Lt. Simon Marshall, who’s dating Lillian, arrives unexpectedly, drinks too much, and storms off after launching some insults. Next morning, Jane receives two surprises when Simon’s killed in a road accident and Redvers arrives unannounced. The news that Simon’s brakes were tampered with marks his death a homicide. Inspector Greyson seems competent enough, but Millie and Lillian press Jane to investigate as well. The game is clearly afoot. The small circle of suspects also includes servants Martha, Queenie, and Alistair. Neubauer complicates her Agatha Christie homage with a slower narrative, less dialogue, and the addition of a slowly simmering romance. Suspects with secrets, a poisoning, and a kidnapping enliven the later chapters.

A retro whodunit with a comfy cast and a nifty solution.Kirkus Reviews

About the author:
Erica Ruth Neubauer
spent eleven years in the military, nearly two as a Maryland police officer, and one as a high school English teacher, before finding her way as a writer. She has been a reviewer of mysteries and crime fiction for publications such as Publishers Weekly and Mystery Scene Magazine for several years, and she's a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Erica Ruth lives in Milwaukee, WI.


  1. I want to get back into cozy mysteries. This one looks great. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I didn't use to like cozies but I love them now. Great to see you Mel!!!

  2. I don't usually read this kind of book but it sounds like a good mystery.

  3. Murder in a place like Downton Abbey is enticing!

  4. Replies
    1. Oh that's right miss I love historical fiction :)