I had a hard time determining my rating for Miss Tibbles Investigates. I very much enjoyed the book and found myself engrossed in the mystery that the author created. Kihlstrom did a great job of providing clues and suspects and danger and suspense. I did figure out who murdered the mysterious man in the library, but not till
quite near the end of the book. Thus, as a mystery reader, I was quite pleased. As a romance reader, I found Miss Tibbles Investigates less satisfactory.
For those readers who are unfamiliar with the leading character, Miss Tibbles was the governess extraordinaire in a series of related books that Kihlstrom wrote about the Westcott family. Last fall, Miss Tibbles had her own romance, meeting Colonel Andrew Merriweather in Bath where she had gone after the last of the five Westcott daughters married. Although she is indeed Mrs. Merriweather now, none of her charges are
likely to think of her as anything but “Miss Tibbles” and all of them remain in awe of her sagacity and kindness.
Thus, when things started going wrong for Anna, Lady Fairchild, when her husband became worried and distracted, when he began pouring over certain letters he had received, letters which he would not share with his wife, Lady Fairchild could think of nothing better to do than to invite her old governess to visit. Her mother-and father-in-law, the Earl and Countess of Kendall, think it strange to entertain a former governess socially, but Anna is determined.
Mrs. Merriweather is not the only visitor about to descend on Kendall Hall. Anna’s sixteen year old daughter has invited Miss Catherine Winley and her mother Lady Winley to spend some time at the Hall. Pamela issued this invitation at the request of her best friend, Julian Deerwood. Twenty year old Julian has fallen madly in love with the
beauteous Catherine, but her parents do not look kindly upon his suit. Not only is he too young, but they have grander aspirations than the eldest son of a mere baron. Pamela, who loves Julian, her childhood playmate, is hurt that he is wooing someone else. But she nevertheless falls in with his wish to spend more time with his beloved.
Thus, the stage is set. The gathering at Kendall Hall is somewhat unusual but what is truly unusual are the events at a masked ball held in the Winleys’ honor. Lord Fairchild seems to behave in a most unusual manner, going so far as to make improper advances to Miss Winley. Two mornings after the ball, when the maid goes into the library, she
discovers Lord Fairchild’s body with a letter opener protruding from his back. But it isn’t Lord Fairchild; he’s still asleep in his bed. Who is this stranger who looks so much like his lordship? Could it be his elder twin brother who supposedly was killed in a duel fifteen years earlier? Who killed the man and why? It is up to Miss Tibbles to help
the local magistrate to discover the truth.
The mystery is at the heart of this book. It is well developed and well plotted. The author gradually uncovers the truth, providing a bevy of alternative suspects and motives. Miss Tibbles proves to be as astute as a detective as she was as a governess dealing with high-spirited misses.
The romance is fairly pedestrian, centering as it does on Julian’s discovery that his childhood friend has grown into a lovely young woman who means more to him than Miss Winley ever could. Of course, Pamela does not know what to make of Julian’s change of heart.
Were I reviewing Miss Tibbles Investigates for The Mystery Reader, I do believe I would recommend it enthusiastically. Miss Tibbles is a lot like Miss Marple in her investigative tactics, depending as she does on her knowledge of human nature, her ability to ferret out secrets and to inspire confidences from all and sundry. As a
romance, however, it is simply acceptable.