Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Dream of Death

Author:  Connie Berry
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781683319870
Crooked Lane Books
320 Pages
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
April 9, 2019


On a remote Scottish Island, American antique dealer Kate Hamilton sleuths a killing that eerily replicates a murder still unsolved after 200 years.

Autumn has come and gone on Scotland's Isle of Rothsay, and the locals gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-tourist season gala.  Among the invited guests is American antique dealer Kate Hamilton.  Returning to the island where her husband died is brutal, but Kate is determined to repair her relationship with her sister-in-law, Elenor Spurgeon, the proprietor of Rothsay's deluxe country house hotel.

Kate has hardly unpacked when a body turns up, murdered in an eerie recreation of an infamous unsolved murder two hundred years before.  And the only clue to the killer's identity lies in a curiously embellished antique casket.  When Bo Duff, the gentle handyman who had tried to save Kate's husband's life, is taken into custody, she teams up with vacationing Detective Inspector Tom Mallory to clear Bo's name.  To accomplish that, they'll have to unmask a killer who seems bizarrely fixated on the past...because two hundred years is an awfully long time to hold a grudge.


Kate Hamilton is a young widow who hasn't been back to the Scottish island where her husband grew up and later died; she wouldn't be there now if it weren't for a telephone call from her sister-in-law begging her to come.

When she arrives she finds her late husband Bill's family home much changed; his sister Elenor has turned it into a hotel (which she did know) and renovated the property to the point of being unrecognizable to her.  While she's curious to find what it is Elenor found so dire she needed Kate's help, Elenor refuses to tell her until after the annual Tartan Ball that evening.

But there's more surprise yet - at the ball, Elenor announces her engagement to a local, Hugh Guthrie, who's written a book about an eighteenth-century inhabitant, a copy of which Elenor has left for Kate to read.  But when Elenor is found dead that evening by an arrow to the neck - the same way as the woman in the book - Kate wonders if the coincidence is more than that.

When Bill's childhood friend and protector Bo Duff is accused of the murder, Kate knows that it's not possible, but it seems the police aren't interested.  Then when she starts to receive threatening notes she also wonders if she's not right about Elenor's murder - and if the killer is closer than she wants them to be...

Since this is a new author, I usually try to give them a pass as to setting and characters; and while I thought the setting wasn't given much aside from descriptions of the hotel, I didn't really get a feel for Kate; she seemed withdrawn into herself, showing very little emotion at all and somewhat with a dull personality, but perhaps this is what the author was going for; after all, she was widowed at a young age and didn't seem to handle the loss.  For myself, I couldn't see how Tom was interested in her, though why she seemed intelligent enough, it was this dullness of personality that bothered me.  I couldn't imagine her enjoying much in life.

Aside from that the mystery was written well and I enjoyed the story line.  The clues were there throughout but the culprit wasn't that easy to figure out.  There was plenty of intrigue and suspense as Kate went about trying to find Elenor's killer.  With enough twists and turns to keep anyone interested, this is an admirable first novel.  Since I love mysteries, I decided to read it, and was not disappointed; but I won't say any more about it, because I don't want to give away the ending to anyone, but I will say I would have liked to see it end differently, not that it was bad, for it was not; but I just would have preferred otherwise.


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