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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Review: Murder on the Cliffs by Joanna Challis

It is National Library week so take a little time this week to get to know your local library if you haven't already. I plan on paying my overdue charges! Yes, I donate to the fund to buy new books regularly via my late fees.

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Author: Joanna Challis

Copyright: November, 2009 (Minotaur); 304 pgs.

Series: #1 Daphne du Maurier Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Character: 21 year old Daphne du Maurier, aspiring author (who later writes Rebecca that becomes a movie)

Setting: 1928 Cornwall England

Obtained book through: Library

21-year-old Daphne is visiting Cornwall to research local history and encounters a teenage girl, Lianne Hartley, leaning over a beautiful young woman's dead body on the beach during a storm. Lianne identifies the dead woman as Victoria Bastion, the local town girl who was about to marry Lianne's brother, Lord David Hartley. Daphne soon meets other members of the aristocratic Hartley family, whose complex relationships and great house, an Elizabethan mansion called Padthaway, cast a spell on her. 
My ears may be young," I replied, "but they are not unhinged by scandalous doings.  In fact, it's quite inspirational for me and my writing. Oh yes," I sighed, deciding to include Ewe in on the secret, "I've come to Windemere Lane at the right time.  For a reason."

"A reason?"  Ewe barked.  "Well, I'd put my two bob on you more than Sir E in solving this case.  I reckon one of those Hartleys did it - her ladyship more than likely.  But Sir E, he's a stickler for the old and rich.  He may seem to be investigating, but he'll never betray them, not ever."...

"Oh my," Ewe laughed.  "If I were Sir E, I'd be worried about you."


"Yes, you.  Miss prim and proper Miss Daphne du Maurier wanting to be a writer of great novels."  She paused.  "You've come to Windemere because you wanted adventure, and adventure met you halfway.  You wanted inspiration, well, a real live murder case could be no more inspiration needed..."

She was right.  I'd stumbled right in the midst of murder and mayhem.

In Windemere Lane of all places.  I intended to shake things up and solve the mystery of Victoria Bastion's death. 

It had become my mission.

And nobody could stop me.
Since Ms. du Maurier's family is well known and friends with the Prime Minister she is welcome at the great Padthaway, encouraged to be the friend of Lianne and the grieving groom is takes an interest in her.  All of which gives her easy access to snoop and question.

The young miss du Maurier is staying with the retire nurse to her Daphne's mother on the wild coast of Cornwall.  This tale drips of gothic romantic imagery, but often times the writing is a bit confusing (even to a gothic suspense lover like myself).  If you can wade through the sometimes convoluted and wordy sentences it is an entertaining tale.  The mystery is a classic formula, a secretive and powerful family that the villagers feel will get away with the murder of the beautiful town girl making good by marrying the Lord.  A limited number of people as suspects within the house provide some twists and turns.

The character of miss du Maurier as an imaginative, slightly headstrong and lovely young lady who discovers the dead body and takes on the pleas of the grieving mother to find out who killed Victoria is convincingly portrayed.  I must say I liked the young Daphne who is a mixture of a daydreamer and a sensible character. Her sympathy for her fellow man is deftly balanced by her wariness of a killer roaming free.  The character of her hostess, the retired nurse, is a fun addition with her unswerving curiosity over the murder. 

The story is doled out a bit at a time and sheer curiousity kept me reading.  I enjoyed how a late arrival character, Major Browning is somewhat a mystery and definitely throws some romantic tension into the mix.  There is enough misdirection that I was suspecting the wrong person all together.  Even after the revelation of the murderer, there is one more twist to be uncovered.  The wrap-up leaves us with a potential on-going romantic interest as a tantalizing morsel to keep us eagerly awaiting the next book.  It is a promising debut for a new series.  I hope that the writing gets smoother and cleaner which would make this a stellar series.

For your convenience you may purchase your copy here.


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Anonymous said...

I'm glad you posted about this book. I bought it soon after it was published - one of those "gotta have it" times. And promptly forgot about it. I'll seek it out! Nice review!

Harvee said...

I must remember this book the next time I'm looking for a good mystery. Just finished one set in Paris.

Book Dilettante

A.F. Heart said...

Love the comments!

Harvee, which book set in Paris. I am hoping to get to some international mysteries soon.

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