Rosepoint Publishing: Five Stars
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.
Kate 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…
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 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.
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.]
Genre: Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Amateur Sleuths, Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Print Length: 299 pages
Publication Date: August 24, 2021Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: The Secret Staircase [Amazon]
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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 –