Murder in the Book Lover’s Loft
Book Retreat Mysteries #9
By Ellery Adams
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Storyton Hall in Virginia is the perfect getaway for booklovers, but when resort manager Jane Steward tries to take a quick break of her own, it leads to a real-life mystery that’s far from relaxing . . .
Jane and her fiancé, Edwin, are headed to the North Carolina coast for a much-needed vacation. Their harborside loft has floor-to-ceiling bookcases and breathtaking views, but Jane’s hopes of exploring the town with her man are stymied when Edwin steps on a stingray. Things take an even less romantic turn when Jane stumbles across a dead body . . .
Instead of taking leisurely beach strolls, Jane is suddenly on a literary chase through time, unearthing a dark secret in her family tree that threatens all she holds dear back in Storyton. And it’ll take a whole village to help her make amends for the past—and stop a madman bent on exacting justice in the present. (From Goodreads)
I treasure each armchair visit to Storyton Hall as the author paints awe-filled vistas of the resort, its trails, recreation areas, and bodies of water. The characters are three-dimensional and memorable, including the shop owners in the village of Storyton. The mystery is complex, a challenge, with several possibilities and plot twists related to people looking for the secret room. The libraries and many, many books would be an unending source of wonder.
Storyton Hall has been a repository for very rare, valuable, or potentially harmful books and documents as overseen by Jane Steward’s ancestors for generations. With great responsibility came great risk of thieves and other miscreants coming purportedly for a special event but actually to locate and steal from the secret library. Criminals have never been above killing anyone getting in their way, causing trouble for centuries.
As planned, Jane and her fiancé, Edwin, went to Oyster Bay, North Carolina. It was the first time Jane had been away from her twelve-year-old twin sons for five days. At Storyton Hall, they have many people who love them, including the Fins, the group of four men who are the security of the Steward family, the resort, and the secret library. They are like family to Jane and her now-retired great aunt and uncle, Each Fin had specialized training and a position that allows them to blend in while keeping a close eye on everything.
The day before, the body of a man was found on the property. He had no ID, and was not recognized as a guest. While they are gone, the sheriff will handle the situation as it was thought the man was renting a nearby guest cabin.
Jane and Edwin stayed in the Book Lover’s Loft, a cottage with a wall of books, at an upscale inn. Their friend, Olivia, an author they met when she was a guest at Storyton, is a delightful older woman who has been eager to show them Oyster Bay. They were on the beach at her home when Jane found the body of one of the authors scheduled to sign their latest novels at Olivia’s bookstore that day. Two items, one on and one near the body, linked him to Storyton Hall.
Edwin was painfully injured in the water, requiring an overnight hospital stay. Jane was alone at the cottage when she heard a sound in the private garden. She found a young woman employed by the inn, dying. Jane administered CPR, but it was too late. The next day Edwin was released from the hospital. Butterworth, one of the Fins, arrived to help with the challenges. He and Olivia had been growing close in recent months; they made a fine couple.
Both the author and the young woman were killed by an overdose of the same unusual drug. The author’s fame had come from revealing tragedies in the lives of people in small towns, such as loved ones of Olivia and two other well-known authors. Just enough truth was written so that the person was recognized, and terrible lies that hurt their surviving loved ones were added. There were at least three people with motive to kill him, but only Olivia has no alibi. So far, there is nobody with a motive to kill the young woman.
The Oyster Bay police had someone in custody for the murders but it didn’t feel right. Edwin, Jane, and the Fins will continue looking into the murders from home. Jane had been keeping a tragedy in her life secret as she didn’t yet want her sons to know what happened to their father. She revealed it to only a few people during the investigation as they try to learn if the author’s next novel was focused on her family.
Storyton has well-defined, engaging characters, especially Jane, Edwin, and the Fins. This is a fabulous place to visit, with unique village shops, an incredible ambiance, and frequent festivals. I love the idea of the Pink-O-Ween festival they attended in Oyster Bay, as it was a fabulous way to raise funds for breast cancer research. I also loved the Halloween masquerade ball at Storyton Hall as the murderer and motives were revealed.
Plot twists were well-timed for maximum effect, building my suspense throughout. I enjoyed seeing the start of a new story for two former suspects. I was genuinely shocked and saddened to see who the bad guy was and why. I understood the motive when learning of the horror in the person’s background, and greatly appreciated Jane’s compassion. The grand finale of this episode was joyfully wonderful with much to look forward to next time! I highly recommend this excellent mystery and series!