Tag Archives: British mysteries

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase

Review: Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase
Eve Mallow Mystery Series
Bookouture (December 4, 2020)

Mystery at the Old Mill by Clare Chase is a cozy mystery pleasure read! I bought it for myself for over the holidays when I decided to take a few days break from publishing work and responsibilities and just immerse myself in something fun! This is book four, and I hadn’t read any of her other books, but when I saw the cover come through my twitter feed with the picture of the old mill on it, it piqued my interest! I love old mills, especially in overseas landscapes. And I love british mysteries. On a personal note as well, I found after buying, that though I live in America now, this takes place in “a sleepy Suffolk village” in England, and this is the area in which I was born and lived as a child. I rarely see books set here and it was so nice to be taken to this landscape of the healths and rivers and coasts.

The book starts at a holiday party, which I also found perfect for a holiday read, but yet not overly “christmas” or “holiday seasonal.” I was ready for a mystery and I thought it’d be the perfect palate cleanser from some of the other things I’d been reading. I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Though I didn’t have much time to read in the end to finish it as quickly as I’d have liked (this would have otherwise been a two day read), I enjoyed looking forward to it when I could and finally finished it in mid-January.

I’ve been talking about series fiction some lately in my work. So it dawns on me to address that this book is a series and I started mid-series. I didn’t really notice it was book four at all – the mystery is stand alone – though I realized while reading mid-way through that some of the characters’ back stories would be enhanced if I went back and read former books – which I definitely will now! It made me curious about the life of the protagonist prior, but it didn’t hinder the story plot any for me. Honestly, I’d probably move on to book five first though, which I think also comes out this year, to continue on from this one to see the progression.

I didn’t even guess who the murderer was at all, and often I do; I didn’t know until the reveal in the final pages! She had so many good twists and turns in thought. It was well-written, and it flowed like the smoothest pot of tea. It didn’t lull or get bogged down in details or character ramblings or rabbit holes. It used the art of deflection without really taking us out of the story. It kept a quick pace and moved along well.

And yet, with the swiftness of the plot, the characters were so fully developed I felt as if I knew all of them! I look forward to getting to know some of them more, too. I really like the protagonist Eve, and the author’s method into making her an accidental “investigator” is priceless! An obituary writer who interviews friends and family is quite unlike something I’ve read, but a great segway into a classic “sleuth.” Definitely for fans who like Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple but want a more modern mystery read with a slightly younger (middle-aged) protagonist.

As well, her descriptions are lush and vivid, but not overdrawn. We can visualize easily, simply, but with depth. That takes the skill of a very talented and seasoned writer. I enjoyed the imagery immensely.

The verdict is: loved it! 

Editorial notes: As a working editor, I usually have a lot of developmental notes, mental or otherwise, on books I read. I really have nothing faulty to say about this book from an editing perspective, whether developmental or otherwise. It’s about as good as they come.

Where received: I purchased this book for myself as a pleasure read. I kinda want the whole set in paperback.

I am falling in love with Bookoutre books!

Mystery at the Old Mill, About –

When the calm of Saxford St Peter is disrupted by a deadly fire at the Old Mill, amateur sleuth Eve Mallow finds herself investigating a most surprising mystery!

Everyone in Saxford St Peter is desperate to know more about Harry Tennant, the newcomer who owns the Old Mill. He usually keeps himself to himself, but he’s finally invited the villagers round for drinks, and Eve Mallow isn’t the only one looking forward to having some questions answered.

But two days before the party, a terrible fire sweeps through the mill, and Harry is found dead. When Eve passes the burned remains of his beautiful house, she can’t resist the call to investigate. Especially when it turns out quiet, charming Harry was living a double life as the famous advice writer Pippa Longford. Eve has to wonder what revelations were contained in the letters he received… and whether one of them was worth killing for.

Accompanied by her reliable dachshund sidekick Gus, Eve starts digging. She soon realises Harry was at the centre of a web of lives – and lies. There’s an uncle desperate to inherit, two women who thought they were his one and only, not to mention everyone who shared their darkest secrets with him. Was one of those strangers much closer to home than Harry knew? And can Eve untangle the truth before she finds herself face to face with a killer?

A completely charming page-turner, perfect for fans of Faith Martin, Agatha Christie and Betty Rowlands.

Clare Chase, Biography –

Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Her debut novel was shortlisted for Novelicious’s Undiscovered Award, as well as an EPIC award post-publication, and was chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading. Murder on the Marshes (Tara Thorpe 1) was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.

Like her heroines, Clare is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.

You can find Clare’s website and blog at http://www.clarechase.com

Purchase –

Eve Mallow Series on Amazon

Or request at your favorite local indie store in the UK or US. At the time of this post, I could find any of this series on bookshop.org, a great place to order books with proceeds going to indie bookstores.

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A Soldier of Substance by D.W. Bradbridge Delivers on All Historical and Mystery Level. Very descriptive!

02_A Solder of Substance Cover

Review~

I was thrilled to read D.W. Bradbridge’s second book, A Soldier of Substance, after reading his first book called A Winter’s Siege and loving it (click on the title to read that former review). He’s a superb writer–very intricate, detailed, yet entertaining, as well as vibrant, suspenseful, and of course, the use of wonderful vocabulary always wins points with me. As well he has a way of capturing in pristine fashion a time and place based on historical research mixed with a bit of imagination.

With A Soldier of Substance he completely delivered on all those levels and beyond. I was completely compelled by where the story might be going from very early on. He intricately wove plot points together with surprises and twists that made me smile or sit up straighter, urging me on to read this animated murder mystery that also carried with it an enormous amount of historical intrigue just right for some long nights of reading. I was swept away by his descriptions and immersed in Daniel Cheswis–the main character who is the constable from the first book turned detective, spy, and now possible cheese vendor–and his adventures in a way that made me want to be his right hand woman. I suppose the cheese had something to do with that as well…I mean I am a lover of cheese. *smile*

Speaking of cheese, the setting of Chester, with their Cheshire cheese, was like historical heaven for me! I LOVED the historical tidbits and his particulars of the setting really astounded me and made me a very happy reader. Taking place in the late 1600s I really enjoyed learning about the “row” system in Chester, where the residential houses were lined in front by the merchant shops, as well as each of the various merchant areas such as the Buttershops Row (where the Seaman family comes into play, of whom many Bradbridge fictionalized except William Seaman who was actually the person first recorded to have a shipment of Cheshire cheese), Bakers Row (his details made my mouth water), Mercers’ Row, and so on. I really enjoyed how he gave me enough to allow a proper picture in my head. I was captivated by the specifications he meandered me through during dinner parties, those of which he made me jealous I was not in attendance, and yet, he also had amazing characterization and fashion sense of the time. I loved all the supporting characters–they were very well done and Bradbridge did a super job of giving each an air of mysteriousness.

Of course these are just the type of additives that Bradbridge includes surrounding several plots that are intertwined as smooth as spreading cream cheese. There is the intrigue and suspense factor, with the Royalists versus the Parliament sympathizers and their preparation for and subsequent siege of Lathom House, run by Lady Derby. The various spy “tools” and tricks that were strewn through the story were so original and creative that I found myself quite pleased, sometimes more than even when reading my beloved Bond novels. I think Bradbridge utilized some of the most unique spy and mystery methods for clues than I’ve read in any other historical mystery. I would list some of my favorites he used, but I don’t want to give away any of your own reading excitement.

As for the mystery, of which a woman is murdered with a cheese wire, that was also very well done and he certainly kept me guessing up to the end. I was held in suspense as he carried me away to the military tents and maneuvers, which was also excellent in terms of historical and military accuracy as well as details, while dropping clues along the way to entice my mind. It takes quite a bit for my mind not to wander and I have to say it never did in regards to this mystery.

This would make such a fun Masterpiece Theatre mystery movie or mini-series! Living in America, it was interesting to read about these smaller parts of British history and civil war that we don’t often hear about here. I really like how Bradbridge, in both of his books, really delves into the history of the region where he lives and brings history to life.

A Soldier of Substance is an entertaining historical mystery that makes for a perfect weekend, coupled with Ye Olde Cheshire cheese, crackers, and a glass of Bordeaux! This novel has excellent and precise writing and impressive period details!

A Soldier of Substance, Synopsis~

02_A Solder of Substance CoverPublication Date: November 1, 2014
Valebridge Publications
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Pages: 470

Series: Daniel Cheswis Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery

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It’s 1644.

The smoke of parliamentary musket, cannon, and mortar fire is in the air around the royalist stronghold of Lathom House. Though guards still stand atop its walls, it is besieged on all sides, and it is only a matter of time until the house, along with its embittered and unwavering countess, Lady Charlotte de Tremouille, falls to Parliament’s might. Yet somehow, a royalist spy still creeps, unseen, through its gates, and brings the countess Parliament’s secrets.

Barely recovered from the trials of the last few months, Daniel Cheswis is torn from his family and sent north, to uncover the identity of the traitor; though before he can even begin, Cheswis finds himself embroiled in a murder. A woman has been garrotted with cheese wire in her Chester home, suggesting there is more than just the usual hatreds of war at play.

As lives are lost and coats are turned on both sides, Cheswis is tasked with finding the murderer, uncovering the traitor, and surviving his soldierly duty long enough to see Lathom House fall.

Buy the Book~

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Author D.W. Bradbridge, Biography~

03_Author D.W. BradbridgeD.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/asoldierofsubstanceblogtour

Hashtags: #ASoldierofSubstanceBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #HistFic
Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @DWBradbridge

04_A Soldier of Substance_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

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A Superb Mystery in British Historical Fashion: The Winter Siege by D.W. Bradbridge

I love this cover!!

I love this cover!!

The Winter Siege, by D.W. Bradbridge, was a terrific winterized read for me living here in the polar vortex for the last week or two. It’s so cold I could almost feel the pain of the villagers of Nantwich, who had to endure such freezing weather elements while also living in fear and turmoil that was all around them. The village, which was a hot pocket for the 17th century feud between King Charles I and Parliament, is ripe with tension. It’s not surprising that someone gets murdered.

And that’s the key to what the novel is really all about–the murder mystery. Though Bradbridge has certainly done an immense amount of local research on the Nantwich subject, as well as the strife between the Crown and Parliament, the book doesn’t have a heavy read to it. It’s only used to build a foundation in which he creates a “what if” and “whodunnit” scenario that engages and intrigues the reader. I was pleasantly surprised how much his mystery lured me in. He creates a sleuth protagonist in Constable Cheswis, who seems already overburdened by the happenings of his own life and preparing for civil war around him, yet he finds a way to widdle away at the possible reason why his townsfolk are being killed and marked as traitors. Bradbridge creates a believable and authentic character who I found myself urging on in his pursuit, while also trying to figure out the clues myself almost like I was his deputy.

These 17th century mysteries, especially those surrounding a military occurrence such as this siege, can be hard to focus as sometimes historical detail can overburden the mystery.  However, Bradbridge does a phenomenal job of holding back just enough so that we can’t guess right out and yet also enough so that we aren’t bored. He never lets his historical education of the time period overpower his plot. The historical background was interesting though as well and his plot thick, well-done, and engaging. I was turning the pages very fast and ending up reading more in several sittings than I had really meant to as I wanted to find out what was happening next!! By the end, I was surprised and satisfied how he had wrapped it up!

I like how he uses the tight quarter fit of this volatile situation and turns it into an intense novel. As we can feel tempers flare, political unrest heighten, and people changing sides to save themselves, we begin to understand how things can easily get out of hand and no one can be trusted in Nantwich.

I’ve been enjoying many historical mystery novels of the 17th century lately and this one lines high up on the list. I certainly enjoyed my corner of the couch with blanket and comfy socks as I was captivated by The Winter Siege. I would highly recommend this book for any reader who wants a historical mystery that holds much more content and weight than most, especially since he utilizes a true historical event as the foundation. I can’t wait to read more mysteries with Daniel Cheswis at the helm!

The Winter Siege, Synopsis~

The Winter SiegePublication Date: October 1, 2013
Electric Reads
Paperback; 488p
ISBN-10: 1492795712

1643. The armies of King Charles I and Parliament clash in the streets and fields of England, threatening to tear the country apart, as winter closes in around the parliamentary stronghold of Nantwich. The royalists have pillaged the town before, and now, they are returning. But even with weeks to prepare before the Civil War is once more at its gates, that doesn’t mean the people of Nantwich are safe.

While the garrison of soldiers commanded by Colonel George Booth stand guard, the town’s residents wait, eyeing the outside world with unease, unaware that they face a deadly threat from within. Townspeople are being murdered – the red sashes of the royalists left on the bodies marking them as traitors to the parliamentary cause.

When the first dead man is found, his skull caved in with a rock, fingers start being pointed, and old hatreds rise to the surface. It falls to Constable Daniel Cheswis to contain the bloodshed, deputising his friend, Alexander Clowes, to help him in his investigations, carried out with the eyes of both armies on his back. And they are not the only ones watching him.

He is surrounded by enemies, and between preparing for the imminent battle, watching over his family, being reunited with his long-lost sweetheart, and trying, somehow, to stay in business, he barely has time to solve a murder.

With few clues and the constant distraction of war, can Cheswis protect the people of Nantwich? And which among them need protecting? Whether they are old friends or troubled family, in these treacherous times, everyone’s a traitor, in war, law, or love.

When the Winter Siege is through, who will be among the bodies?

Buy Links

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble

Author D.W. Bradbridge, Biography~

D.W. Bradbridge was born in 1960 and grew up in Bolton. He has lived in Crewe, Cheshire since 2000, where he and his wife run a small magazine publishing business for the automotive industry.

“The inspiration for The Winter Siege came from a long-standing interest in genealogy and local history. My research led me to the realisation that the experience endured by the people of Nantwich during December and January 1643-44 was a story worth telling. I also realised that the closed, tension-filled environment of the month-long siege provided the ideal setting for a crime novel.

“History is a fascinating tool for the novelist. It consists only of what is remembered and written down, and contemporary accounts are often written by those who have their own stories to tell. But what about those stories which were forgotten and became lost in the mists of time?

“In writing The Winter Siege, my aim was to take the framework of real history and fill in the gaps with a story of what could, or might have happened. Is it history or fiction? It’s for the reader to decide.”

For more information please visit D.W. Bradbridge’s website. You can also find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

The Winter Siege_Tour Banner _FINAL

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A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by Susanna Calkins is a Must Read 17th Century English Mystery

Murder at..This week, Susanna Calkins introduced A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, her 17th Century Murder Mystery. If you are reading only a few historical mysteries this year, I recommend please putting this one on your list! The cover will outright lure you in, but the tale itself will hold you in its grasp until the very last pages.

By the first 100 pages or so, in which she introduced her characters, set the scene, and gave us a murderer to ferret out, Calkins was able to already have me feeling connected to her characters, in tune to their personality quirks, captivated by their emotions, and feeling a friendship with Lucy, her protagonist who is a chambermaid in the house of a magistrate.

I loved Calkins use of creative participants such as the painter, gypsy fortune tellers, and other off-beat cast of characters who portrayed the more “seedy” dealings of society the common places, the dirty streets of London, and even in the homes of high society.  Most primarily I liked her use of the murderer leaving “a note” that was found with the body and the use of a legend of the lover’s park. Calkins brought to me, as a reader, fresh characters that many people don’t always use in their historical writings. Her story is original and her characters real.

I felt like I was reading Downtown Abbey mixed with the adventures of the London streets that comes with gossips, servants, drunks, and well….murder, reminiscent of Jack the Ripper. The mystery takes us on a thought-provoking adventure as we see how lives intersect, even between classes, and discover the mystery.  During this journey, we also can sense Lucy gathering an amazing amount of self-confidence and self-worth.

Lucy is quite the female–not overly aggressive, but yet independent. Emotional, yet rational. Analytical, yet compassionate. Virtuous and endearing. I love her!! I hope that Calkins does a series with Lucy, you know the type of character who is always trying to go around living life and saying she isn’t a detective, BUT murder just seems to fall in her lap and she can’t help solving it? (hint, hint)

I don’t want to give too much away, but the murderer probably won’t be who you thought either. She does a wonderful job of leading up to a fantastic finale! I like how Calkins used a smaller cast of characters in a condensed and not overly done setting, which reminded me of some of Agatha Christie’s earlier mysteries. Her character development is superb and her mystery plot exciting and entertaining. I enjoyed guessing the clues along with Lucy.

I am very pleased with Susanna Calkins debut mystery novel and I look forward to much more writing from her. The mystery had an endearing cast of characters, a quaint setting that allowed for a more proper character led plot, a mystery that kept me guessing, a fantastic use of historical details and life struggles, and some great writing that flowed smooth as a pen on paper.

A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate: A Mystery, Synopsis~

Murder at..Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press (April 23, 2013)

When someone she loves faces hanging for the murder of a fellow servant, Lucy Campion—a seventeenth-century English chambermaid—must interpret the clues hidden in miniature portraits, popular ballads, and a corpse’s pointing finger–to save his life, before the true murderer turns on her…

Giveaway~

Enter to win one (1) copy of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate by commenting below or by email to hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com by 11:59 p.m. EST 2 weeks from this posting.

For 1 extra entry, follow this blog, for extra 2 entries, join my new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/HookofaBook. U.S. only, please.

Author Susanna Calkins, Biography~

calkinsSusanna Calkins is a historian and academic, currently working at Northwestern University. She’s had a morbid curiosity about murder in seventeenth-century England ever since she was in grad school, when she was first working on her Ph.D. in history. The ephemera from the archives—tantalizing true accounts of the fantastic and the strange—inspired her historical mysteries, including A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books). Born and raised in Philadelphia, she lives outside Chicago now with her husband and two sons.

See the wonderful interview Susanna and I did earlier this week by clicking HERE!!

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