Murder in the Locked Library
Book Retreat Mysteries Book #4
By Ellery Adams
Author’s Website: elleryadamsmysteries.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra
Welcome to Storyton Hall, Virginia, where book lovers travel from near and far to enjoy the singular comforts of the Agatha Christie Tea Room, where they can discuss the merits of their favorite authors no matter how deadly the topic.
With her twins, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, back in school, Jane Steward can finally focus on her work again—managing Storyton Hall, and breaking ground on the resort’s latest attraction: a luxurious, relaxing spa named in honor of Walt Whitman. But when the earth is dug up to start laying the spa’s foundation, something else comes to the surface—a collection of unusual bones and the ragged remnants of a very old book. The attendees of the Rare Book Conference are eager to assist Jane with this unexpected historical mystery—until a visitor meets an untimely end in the Henry James Library. As the questions—and suspects—start stacking up, Jane will have to uncover a killer before more unhappy endings ensue.
Murder in the Locked Library is the fourth book in the Book Retreat Mysteries series by Ellery Adams. My preference is to read a series from the beginning, but I have jumped into this series at this juncture. While not an ideal situation, the author has done a reasonable job of providing the required background to begin at this point.
We begin the story as a Rare Book conference is getting underway at Storyton Hall, Virginia. Simultaneously, Storyton Hall is undergoing renovations – a luxurious, relaxing spa named in honor of Walt Whitman – a pet project of Jane Steward – the manager of Storyton Hall is breaking ground.
Sinclair is quite the character. He is Storyton Hall’s head librarian. He has many things to teach Jane’s young twins Hemingway and Fitzgerald. One also gets the impression that he is a very multi-talented individual… way beyond what meets the eye. I enjoyed Sinclair right from the beginning. His teachings to the boys with respect as to how to show respect to books was perfect:
“What else have I taught you about the proper treatment of books?”
“To make sure our hands are clean before touching a book,” Hem said.
“I was going to say that.” Fitz frowned, but quickly brightened again. “You also said never fold the corner of a page to mark our place. Civilized people use bookmarks.”
Sinclair’s stern expression morphed into a smile.
“Correct on both counts. Scrub those hands until I can see pink skin and I’ll tell you about this book. It holds a secret.”
Another interesting staff member is Mr. Butterworth – the butler. He is also a conductor., leading the Storyton Chamber Orchestra. When Butterworth told Jane about the first death, the wording was certainly interesting:
“…Butterworth, please. Please tell me that there hasn’t been a terrible accident.”
“An accident? On the cause of death, I couldn’t say.” Butterworth put a steadying hand on Jane’s shoulder. “But we do have a Rip Van Winkle.”
“A Rip Van Winkle was the code for a Storyton Hall guest who had expired on the premises.
“Not again!” Jane cried.
In the midst of the conference, Jane must figure out who the dead person was, having the bones discovered of a long ago death, as the spa renovation was getting underway. Of course, things are not simple (naturally). Subsequently, a current guest at Storyton Hall dies under suspicious circumstances.
I loved the passage where Jane was on the road with Sterling and Lachlan (two of the Fins) and they had to stop suddenly for a buck…the writing was such that I felt as if I was there myself. I quite enjoyed the descriptive writings such as this passage, or when the characters were discussing books reverently.
The buck, unperturbed, turned to stare at them. At that moment, the moon emerged from behind the clouds and the magnificent animal was bathed in a radiant white light. Jane’s breath caught in her throat. To her, the deer had transformed into the mystical stag as described in the Harry Potter novels, or The Hobbit. It stood completely still, its proud head held high, as if its massive antlers were made of air.
There is a lot going on with the story – for example: trying to figure out multiple murders (are they related or not)? What is going on with Jane’s boyfriend, Edwin? And getting to know the Cover Girls was priceless (and they do have some good sleuthing skills) along with the Fins.
One final quote which I found poignant:
“Faulkner said that ‘you cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.’
I have certainly enjoyed this mystery. Albeit, at times it seemed to drag a bit during the first half of the book, but I am happy to report that in the second half of the book the pace picked up and kept my interest until the end. In fact, so much so that I had a hard time putting it down from then on. Unfortunately, there are parts of the story which probably would make more sense if I had started the series from the beginning.
I must admit – I was not able to figure out ‘whodunit’ – which is one thing I do look for in a good cozy mystery – not being able to figure out who until they are revealed. So mission accomplished J
I hope to read this series from the beginning to see what backstory have missed in hopes of enjoying these characters even more. As well, the story was left with a mystery as well…leading into the next book….yeah!
I also am looking forward to reading more books in another series of Ellery Adams that I am following: ‘A Supper Club Mystery Series’.