The Secret Staircase: A Mystery (Victorian Village Mysteries Book 3) by Sheila Connolly – #BookReview – #TuesdayBookBlog

Rosepoint Publishing: Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly, The Secret Staircase is the third Victorian Village Mystery, which finds Kate Hamilton discovering a long-dead body in a hidden staircase.

The Secret Staircase by Sheila ConnollyKate Hamilton is feeling good about her plans to recreate Asheboro, Maryland as the Victorian village it once was. The town is finally on her side, and the finances are coming together.

Kate’s first goal is to renovate the Barton Mansion on the outskirts of town. Luckily, it’s been well maintained in the century since the wealthy Henry Barton lived and died there. The only substantial change she’s planning is to update the original kitchen so that it can be used to cater events in the building. But when the contractor gets started, he discovers a hidden staircase that had been walled in years earlier. And as Kate’s luck would have it, in the stairwell is a body.

After her initial shock wears off, Kate is relieved when the autopsy reveals that the man had died around 1880. Unfortunately, it also reveals that his was not a natural death—he was murdered. And serious questions remain: who was he and what was he doing there?

Kate begins a hunt to identify the man and figure out what he was doing at the Barton Mansion. But when a second body is found—this time from the present day—Kate realizes that real dangers lie in digging up the past…

His Review:

A forgotten estate on a large parcel of land has been designated a historical landmark. Kate Hamilton is a city girl who has come back to her home town of Asheboro to make a tourist attraction of the Henry and Mary Barton mansion and grounds. Local donors and the Mid-Atlantic Power Company have provided funds for the renovation and refurbishing. Overall, the “bones” of the property are sound.

The Secret Staircase by Sheila ConnollyThe property was last lived in over 110 years ago and was basically locked and abandoned. Henry Barton had left an endowment to maintain the property and the grounds. One of the town mayors absconded with the money and the property has fallen on hard times. Kate loves her hometown of Asheboro and sets out to recreate the properties grandeur and opulence. She will work on the physical property and her good friend Carroll Peterson will research the history of the property and the family that lived there.

Henry and Mary Barton were the only couple to occupy the mansion. There is little record of them in the community although Henry was a captain of industry in the town, helping to employ most of its’ residents. First a shovel company and then a lighting factory soon gave the community a robust economy. Mary and Henry were reclusive and not much is known about them. Kate and Carroll set out to change that and develop a tourist attraction to help revitalize the community.

Sheila Connolly develops her characters well and attaches mystery and drama to the story. A hidden staircase is found behind a false wall in the kitchen and the drama blossoms. A hundred plus year old mummified corpse is found inside the staircase and the mystery begins to unfold. CE Williams

This story takes you on a rollercoaster ride of historical secrets. How did the body get there and who was the victim? Can the answers be found and the mansion turned into a city attraction? Read the story and see if you are satisfied by the outcome. 5 stars – CE Williams

We received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are his honest opinions. The book is set to release next Tuesday. [Note: I’ve read two other novels by this author, each in a different series: Digging Up History, and The Lost Traveller but wasn’t quite as thrilled as was the CE with this one.]

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Amateur Sleuths, Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
ISBN: ‎ 1250135907
ASIN: B0818PKLL1
Print Length: 299 pages
Publication Date: August 24, 2021Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: The Secret Staircase [Amazon] 
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Sheila Connolly - author
Sheila Connolly

The Author: After collecting too many degrees and exploring careers ranging from art historian to investment banker to professional genealogist, Sheila Connolly began writing in 2001, and has now published over thirty traditional mysteries, including several New York Times bestsellers.

Her series include the Orchard Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime), the Museum Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime), The County Cork Mysteries (Crooked Lane Books), the Relatively Dead Mysteries (Beyond the Page Press), and beginning in 2018, The Victorian Village Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press.

Her first full-length, standalone ebook, Once She Knew, was published in October 2012.

Connolly has also published a variety of short stories: “Size Matters” appeared in the 2010 Level Best Anthology, Thin Ice; “Called Home,” a short prequel to the Orchard series, was published by Beyond the Page in 2011; and “Dead Letters,” an e-story featuring the main characters from the Museum series, will be published by Berkley Prime Crime in February 2012. Beyond the Page also published “The Rising of the Moon,” and another Level Best anthology includes “Kept in the Dark,” which was nominated for both an Agatha award and an Anthony award for 2013.

She is passionate about genealogy, both American and Irish, and is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Society of Mayflower Descendants. She is also an Irish citizen and owns a cottage in West Cork.

She lives in a too-big Victorian in southeastern Massachusetts with her husband and three cats. Find out more about her at her website, http://www.sheilaconnolly.com

©2021 CE Williams – V Williams – V Williams

Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody by Barbara Ross – An #Audiobook – #amateursleuth

Yahoo! Book one of a new series!

#audiobook - Jane Darrowfield Professional Busybody

Book Blurb:

Jane Darrowfield is a year into her retirement, and she’s already traveled and planted a garden. She’s organized her photos, her recipes, and her spices. The statistics suggest she has at least a few more decades ahead of her, so she better find something to do….  

After Jane helps a friend with a sticky personal problem, word starts to spread around her bridge club – and then around all of West Cambridge, Massachusetts – that she’s the go-to girl for situations that need discreet fixing. Soon she has her first paid assignment – the director of a 55-and-over condo community needs her to de-escalate hostilities among the residents. As Jane discovers after moving in for her undercover assignment, the mature set can be as immature as any high schoolers, and war is breaking out between cliques.   

It seems she might make some progress – until one of the aging “popular kids” is bludgeoned to death with a golf club. And though the automatic sprinklers have washed away much of the evidence, Jane’s on course to find out whodunit….

My Review:

As a big fan of author Barbara Ross and her Maine Clambake Mysteries series, I was delighted to see an audiobook for her new series, Jane Darrowfield. Jane is a widow, retired, and has done all those things women save for retirement. Now at odds but finding a niche with her intelligent guidance in a number of “discreet” situations, Jane is cultivating a “fixer” rep.

Of course, being a senior myself, it’s fun to see a growing influence in the “senior sleuth” genre. And a strong, independent, and intelligent woman to boot, she represents a new face to the cozy sleuthing genre as well.

Jane Darrowfield, Professional BusybodyIn this first entry, we are introduced to Jane as she attempts to discern and solve the problem at an over 55 condo community—amenities to die for—apparently. A well paid assignment that requires her to move to a temporary unit, it doesn’t take long to realize she’s landed back in high school, including the cliques (groan), the jocks (read golfers), and a motorcycle gang.

Jane has an easy personable way of infiltrating and begins to realize what she is up against when one of the popular boys is found murdered on the golf course. In the meantime, we are introduced to her new (maybe) boyfriend Harry (if he’ll just back off the protective male attitude a bit) and Detective Alvarez. I had to agree with Jane about Harry (for awhile—then began rooting for him) and he and Det. Alvarez are great support characters.

While Jane may be a bit more difficult to warm to, walk in her shoes, or identify with, all three are shaping up to produce some good chemistry in characters that are engaging.

The author has a wonderful subtle way of building up the suspense, providing clues and twists. The conclusion throws the well-plotted pace into high gear and I must admit that although I’d given the ultimate perp some thought had toyed with dismissing that one too.

On the whole, a lively novel that builds suspense, keeps engagement, and is highly entertaining. Nice to have a senior portrayed as a person still very capable, physically as well as mentally. A great start to a new series!

FTC Disclosure: I downloaded the audiobook from my locally well stocked library and greatly enjoyed the narrator as well as the storyline.

Book Details:

Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Cozy Mysteries, Women Sleuth Mysteries
Publisher:  Audible Books
ASIN: B08BF53LH5
Listening Length: 6 hrs 29 mins
Narrator: Traci Odom
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busybody [Amazon] 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five of Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Barbara Ross - authorThe Author: Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries and the Jane Darrowfield Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at http://www.barbararossauthor.com

Traci Odom - narratorThe Narrator: Traci Odom, American-born actor and voice artist with 150+ titles narrates under her name, as well as Tieran Wilder for erotica and wild romance. She loves working closely with her authors and publishers and delights in inviting listeners into her worlds of romance, witchcraft, devilry and love. Check out my pseudonym website at www.tieranwilder.com. Accents: American English, British English, Irish, Midwest, New York, Russian, Italian

©2021 V Williams