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Friday, May 28, 2021

Review - Murder at Blackwater Bend

Stella Kendrick, a wild-hearted Kentuckian "Dollar Princess" shipped off to England for an aristocratic marriage and her soon-to-be groom Viscount "Lyndy" Lyndhurst must navigate culture clashes, scandal, and a high society killer in Clara McKenna's second historical mystery set in England's New Forest region at the turn of the 20th century.

I reviewed the first in the series, Murder at Morrington Hall (click here).   Now is time for the second book.  Is it as good as the first? Better?  Read on to find out.

Clara McKenna

Copyright: April 2021 (Kensington) 352 pgs

Series: 2nd in Stella & Lyndy Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: historical cozy, amateur Sleuth

Main Characters: Stella Kendrick, Kentucky heiress shipped to England to marry a Viscount sight unseen. 

Setting: 1905, Hampshire England

Obtained Through: Library

Book blurb: "Wild-hearted Kentuckian Stella Kendrick cautiously navigates the strict demands of British high society as the future Lady of Morrington Hall. But when petty scandals lead to bloody murder, her outspoken nature could be all that keeps her alive...

Following a whirlwind engagement to Viscount "Lyndy" Lyndhurst, Stella is finding her footing within an elite social circle in picturesque rural England. Except tea time with refined friends can be more dangerous than etiquette faux pas--especially in the company of Lady Philippa, the woman Lyndy was once set to marry, and her husband, the ostentatious Lord Fairbrother...

Outrage erupts and accusations fly after Lord Fairbrother's pony wins best in breed for the seventh consecutive year. The man has his share of secrets and adversaries, but Stella and Lyndy are in for a brutal shock when they discover his body floating in the river during a quiet morning fishing trip...

Suddenly unwelcome around hardly-grieving Lady Philippa and Lyndy's endlessly critical mother, Stella faces the bitter reality that she may always be an outsider--and one of her trusted new acquaintances may be a calculating killer. Now, Stella and her fiancé must fight against the current to catch the culprit, before they're the next couple torn apart by tragedy."

Stella Kendrick is smart, free spirited, stubborn, and independent with scars from her father's ill treatment of her.  Mr. Elijah Kendrick, Stella's cold hearted, self-centered father is a self-made millionaire, who is uncouth and rude.  Viscount Lord Lyndhurst, Lyndy, is the intended groom who is marrying Stella for her money to save the family - but he has fallen for her in truth.  The Earl and Lady Atherly are Lyndy's parents. Lady Atherly is an insufferable snob who can't stand Stella. Lord Atherly is kind and just loves his expensive archeology hobby.  A rather rough man known as the snake-catcher helps Stella several times with his amateur veterinarian skills on her beloved horse.  He gets mixed up in the killer's net. 

The setting is New Forest, the former royal hunting grounds for King William the Conqueror centuries prior.  In particular the streams where Lyndy attempts to teach Stella to  fish.  The wild areas are used for many scenes.

The story is setup first introducing many of the characters for this story. The murder is just one aspect, there is Lyndy's mother scheming to marry Lyndy off to somebody else who has money but is "proper". Another subplot is Stella's loyalty to her unlikely friend, the snake-catcher. Another subplot is Stella's father's involvement with an opportunistic reporter much younger than himself.  There are many suspects and Lord Fairbrother turns out to have many haters.  The story had many interesting aspects to keep my flipping the pages.
The climax is realistic with the police supporting Stella and Lyndy as they confront the killer.  Well done. All the questions are answered and the wrapup shows some progress for Stella.

This is a great addition to the series and shows even more of Stella and Lyndy's growing relationship based on regard and affection for one another rather than money.  The mystery was solid with several facets of the investigation and layers of what was happening.  This is a fun historical mystery if you don't mind family drama.  I am rather done with Stella's horrible father.  Otherwise this is a well done historical cozy mystery.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

A year in the New Forest highlights the beauty 
of the novel's setting.

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