Katharine Schellman's Murder at Midnight, the fourth Lily Adler mystery, finds her keen-eyed protagonist trapped at an impromptu Hertfordshire house party after a snowstorm. When a fellow guest is found murdered and Amelia, the sister of her friend Jack, is implicated, Lily assists her brother-in-law (the local magistrate) with an investigation. Schellman (The Last Drop of Hemlock; Last Call at the Nightingale) delves into issues of gender, race, reputation, and honor in Regency-era England. Lily, a white English widow, knows her word carries more weight than that of Amelia, who is younger, unmarried, and Anglo-Indian. Amelia's parents, also present, are forced to tread a fine line as they deal with their neighbors' prejudice, and fear for their daughter's safety. Gregory Edison, the murdered man, was a known gambler and blackmailer, but did Amelia--or someone else--want him dead? Lily, applying the skills she has learned in solving three previous cases, delves discreetly (and sometimes not so discreetly) into her neighbors' lives to find out.
Schellman's narrative is filled with detailed descriptions of the period in which the novel is set--the finer points of afternoon tea; the valuable jewelry; the housekeeper, Mrs. Reynaud, tallying the linens. Lily's relationships with various men--her brother-in-law, John; her sometime paramour, Matthew; and Jack, her longtime friend--are nuanced and complex, if sometimes restricted by the laws of propriety. As time drags on and tensions build among the guests, the narrative slows a bit, but Schellman eventually brings her case and her characters to a satisfying conclusion. Fans of strong-minded female sleuths and layered historical fiction will enjoy Lily's fourth adventure. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams