Sunday, June 9, 2013

Murder on the Cape Fear

Author:  Ellen Elizabeth Hunter
Genre:  Mystery

4 Stars
Ashley Wilkes lives in Wilmington, North Carolina and is an historic preservationist; she is restoring the home of a sea captain, Thomas Pettigrew, who was a Civil War blockade runner.  An old journal and letters link Captain Pettigrew to the present day, and someone who believes there is buried treasure somewhere in the house she is restoring is willing to kill for it.
While at a local bookshop where her uncle is having a book signing, Ashley stumbles - literally - across a dead body.  She discovers that her uncle was sent a journal written by the late Captain Pettigrew.

Ashley (who, for those of you who may not have yet read Gone With the Wind), was named after a character in the book, along with her sister, Melanie.  I picked up this book for that reason and the fact that it has ties to the Civil War, a subject I am extremely interested in (due to the fact that my husband was born and raised near Gettysburg, and I love the area and the history surrounding it).  I am glad to say I was not disappointed.  The plot is well-woven, the story tight, and the characters both endearing and infuriating.

I was slightly confused at first, because although the book's description reads that Ashley is an "historic preservationist," and that she is refurbishing a home, she refers to the home as 'hers', and several times throughout the book she notes that she has to get back to 'her house,' and I guess maybe a preservationist could refer to a house that way; I don't think I, personally, would get so attached to a house I was refurbishing to look at it as mine.  Nor would I live in it as Ashley is doing.  I've seen houses that needed to be restored, and no one I know would think of living in them while they're refinishing unless the house truly belonged to them.  After all, how would you feel when it was time to leave?  But I digress...

When Ashley finds the body, it turns out he was part of an 'investors weekend' her sister Melanie was hosting.  Melanie is an ex-beauty queen-turned-realtor who breezes through life without a care, and does pretty much whatever she pleases.  So until the police can clear the rest of the investors as suspects, no one is allowed to leave town.

Melanie being who she is, foists upon her younger sister a loud-mouthed writer and her mousy husband who proceed to take over the house from Ashley, lock, stock and barrel.  Ashley is beside herself but her sister won't do anything (stating all hotels are full), and Patsy, the unwelcome houseguest, considers herself a 'picker' and begins to load the house with all sorts of junk, to Ashley's dismay.  Patsy is a thoroughly unlikeable, coarse woman in my opinion, and there were a few times while reading I wanted to give her a swift kick myself.

Then things begin to happen - and I won't spoil the book and tell.  But what I will say is that it is all tied to the journal that Ashley's Uncle Binkie has received from the home's owner - and that it goes back to the Civil War, Wilmington and the blockade runners.  There are historical references and information regarding Wilmington and the surrounding area which I found to be interesting.

When the ending is finally revealed, it was put together well.  It made sense, and both the past and the present were merged seamlessly.  The reason I gave it four stars instead of five was because, as I mentioned before, I became confused when she kept referring to it as 'my house,' and thought that she should have explained how she lives in the homes and refers to them as 'hers'.

Still, a very good read and recommended for anyone with either an interest in the Civil War or mysteries.  I fully intend to read others by this author.

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