Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Berkley (June 3, 2008)
In this first book in the Bellehaven House mystery series, we are introduced to Meredith Llewellyn, headmistress of Bellehaven House, a finishing school set in Edwardian England. Tom, the head gardener, has just led Meredith out to the garden to show her his grisly discovery; the dead body of Kathleen Duncan, one of Bellehaven's tutors. As Meredith immediately thinks some accident has befallen Kathleen, Tom quickly disabuses her of that notion. It's murder, plain and simple. Kathleen was bashed in the head with a large neatly sawn off tree branch.
When the local constable is called in, he is quick to assume it was a passing vagrant and rapidly writes off the case. He actually has the gall to suggest it was Kathleen's fault for being out by herself at night. When Meredith first sees Kathleen's ghost she thinks Kathleen is trying to communicate who killed her and why. The ghost just keeps vaguely pointing in the direction of the flower gardern. Along with the school's other two tutors, Essie and Felicity, they try to figure out the mystery so Kathleeen's spirit can rest easy. Not an easy task since there are really no tangible clues.
All during the book I could not get a clear picture in my mind of any of these characters. This tells me the author did a poor job of fleshing them out. It was reasonably easy to guess who murdered Kathleen and the means of getting the person to confess was inane and totally unbelievable. The only promising aspects of the book were the two maids' interest in being suffragettes but unfortunately, this was not pursued. I felt the Edwardian timeframe could have been much more delved into and would have given the book an interesting atmosphere.
Would I read the next book in the series? Due to the weakness in this one, no I would not. There are plenty of better developed mysteries out there to be read. 2** is a generous rating. No
thumbs flippers up on this one. It left me flat!