I took an unusually long time to get through this novel. I kept finding other books I wanted to read more or at least grabbed my attention quicker. Against my better judgment I had jumped into this series at #23! Usually I wouldn’t dream of not starting at the beginning of a series but this one was the latest release and was on special. Plus I figured with all the great ratings for the previous 22, it must be great. That didn’t quite work out for me.
It’s a nippy spring in Tinker’s Cove, Maine, and Lucy Stone can’t wait to join her friend Sue in England for a “Heads Up!” hat exhibition. But at Moreton Manor, privileged life isn’t always tea and crumpets . . .
Although the earl of the house and his sister are surprisingly accommodating to their jetlagged guests, Lucy feels uneasy after a fallen portrait sparks talk of a deadly family omen. The bad vibes come in quickly—snobby Aunt Millicent and her handmaiden Harrison unexpectedly drop by for the exhibition, and meals with the family are consistently tense. But real trouble begins when a body, bludgeoned by the chapel’s gold-plated reliquary, is found in a hidden, sealed off room. Stranger still, the corpse is identified as Harrison’s son, Cyril.
While Cyril wasn’t exactly a gentleman, and it’s unclear what business he had on the property, one thing’s for sure—the criminal is privy to Moreton Manor secrets. And Lucy has a hunch that the killer has been in her company all along, just waiting for a chance to make blueblood run red . . . (Amazon)
Lucy has been rather depressed since her grandson Patrick, who was temporarily in her care, was reunited with his parents and then relocated with them to Alaska. Her friend Sue invites her to tag along on a trip to England for a hat exhibition, to which Sue is a contributor. What is supposed to be a lovely, relaxed stay at a grand English manor, turns into another murder mystery for Lucy to solve.
I figure this series has a loyal following and my review may go contrary to popular opinion but I did not like it. I found the pacing of the story to be far too slow. About a quarter of the way in the first ‘body’ is found (but this one isn’t the pivotal crime… or a crime at all). At the 50% marker the main murder victim in finally found. It’s then not until two-thirds into the story that any real action and key information start appearing.
I enjoy reading a mystery, sifting through the clues, figuring which ones are valid and which are red herrings. This story didn’t offer much by way of clues for the reader to play with. The author seemingly hid all the good stuff to try and spring a surprise at the end.
Then we come to the protagonist. Perhaps, my main displeasure with the novel stems from the fact that I never got behind Lucy. I understand that she was depressed but she was so negative. She also came across as ungrateful and a bit unkind. She was critical of her hosts’ lifestyle while enjoying their hospitality. She was not too keen on the food and drink offered; and she carelessly speaks ill of her hosts with the neighbours.
On the plus side there are lots of beautifully written descriptions of the countryside, the house, the hats and the exhibition. The writing style is engaging and the dialogue is natural, easily capturing an English cadence juxtaposed against Lucy and Sue’s American styled speech.
Fun fact learnt (and verified) from reading this book: “Pong” is an informal British word used to describe a strong, unpleasant smell.
—–Glad I looked that one up as I was ready to assume the elderly aunt couldn’t sleep properly due to an annoying noise…
Some things I liked:
- The beautiful descriptions entwined in the narrative.
- Natural dialogue which captured the English flavour.
- The family dynamics of the Moreton Manor residents. Their interactions and family drama supplied some of the most entertaining parts of the book.
- The author does a very good job of illustrating how a ‘working’ manor home functions.
- The English countryside setting.
Some things I did not like:
- The pace of the story is too slow.
- I found it hard to like Lucy and even her friend Sue.
- The ending was a bit anti-climactic. Lucy never really got into the mystery herself. She was informed of key information rather than really figuring it out on her own.
Although this is not a favourite of mine, I still think it was an enjoyable enough read. The setting is beautifully described and interwoven with substantial local flair.
I give this book 3/5 espresso shots.