Murder on the Poet’s Walk
Book Retreat Mysteries #8
By Ellery Adams
Author Website: elleryadamsmysteries(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
When corpses clutching poems begin turning up around Storyton Hall, resort manager Jane Steward is on the trail of someone exercising poetic license to kill . . .
As Jane eagerly anticipates the wedding of her best friend Eloise Alcott, Storyton Hall is overrun with poets in town to compete for a coveted greeting card contract. They’re everywhere, scrawling verses on cocktail napkins in the reading rooms or seeking inspiration strolling the Poet’s Walk, a series of trails named after famous authors. But the Tennyson Trail leads to a grim surprise: a woman’s corpse drifting in a rowboat on a lake, a crumpled copy of “The Lady of Shallot” in her lifeless fist.
When a second body is discovered, also holding a page from a poetry book, a recurring MO emerges. Fortunately, Jane is well versed in sleuthing and won’t rest until she gives the killer a taste of poetic justice. (Goodreads)
This brilliant new cozy mystery, written by a master wordsmith and storyteller, reminds me of all the reasons why I would love to spend a week or four at Storyton Hall. I can easily imagine being seated comfortably with a good book in any peaceful library, reading room, or bench on a hiking trail. One doesn’t have to be an aficionado of classical literature or poetry to feel at home. This idyllic setting with delectable menus for each themed meal, the incredible book collection, friendships and camaraderie amongst the staff and the village, and real-life sweet romances add to the appeal.
Jane Steward, manager of the resort, is hosting approximately 50 poets who are vying for a contract with a new greeting card company. The intense lectures, activities, and writing will produce one winner who will do all drawings and verses for Current Moods Cards, and the competition is fierce.
Great Uncle Aloysius and Great Aunt Octavia raised Jane here after the untimely deaths of her parents. Sinclair, Sterling, and Butterworth have been like fathers to her. Senior members of the staff, they are publicly the librarian, head chauffeur, and head butler respectively. Away from the public eye, they are a kind of security force, known as the Fins, primarily for Jane and her family. Since Jane has been in charge, Landon has joined the Fins, and he publicly handles the raptors and related classes to the public.
There is a secret library hidden deep within the manor, the existence of which is known to a very few hand-selected people who Jane would trust with her life. Contents include rare or original documents, books, and other publications, priceless and irreplaceable.
Jane was on an early morning hike when she saw the turquoise canoe in the reeds of the lake. In it sat a young woman wearing a white dress. She was already dead, sat up and tied to the seat to keep her from falling. She appeared to be like the artist’s rendering associated with Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallot”.
Identified as Gretchen, she was one of the poets there for the weekend. She was one of the top contenders for the contract. Jane and the Fins use every means they have to help the sheriff. They have provided assistance in the past based on their varied prior careers. It would take time to discover the cause of death and discreetly learn about Gretchen from any others who might know her.
As they try to discover how a killer got in or out of the manor, a one-of-a-kind handwritten poem by one of America’s best-loved 1800’s poets was found. It was in a secret passageway that Jane’s twin boys told her long-time boyfriend, Edwin, about. The poem had been carefully stored in the secret library for many years. Jane discovered that about a dozen of the poet’s original writings were missing. There is much speculation, including whether the thief and the killer were the same person, how the person got into the secret library, or if the crimes were somehow connected.
The main reasons one can enjoy this resort are Jane and her family, her dear friends and fellow book club members, the Cover Girls, and the hand-picked staff. Each of these unique men and women come to life with sufficient details to know and feel their love and loyalties. I love the three older Fins and their close relationships with the family. It always amazes me how the family and the Fins have such in-depth knowledge of poets or authors that they can hear a title or a few lines of verse or prose and recognize it!
This novel is detailed without being tedious; rather, it allowed me to read slowly enough to appreciate it. The mysteries were confounding! When I had an idea who the bad guy was, a plot twist or a simple clue turned up and changed my mind again. I am happy that the mysteries are the primary focus throughout. I enjoyed catching up with Jane and her family, the Fins, and her friends, but none detracted from the murders and theft. There are details that kept Storyton Hall interesting, such as the games the boys played or the signature cocktails for the event. Needless to say, I didn’t know the bad guy(s) or motive(s) and was very surprised at the outcomes. I highly recommend this very original novel and series!