Pub. Date: May 2, 2017
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Minotaur Books!)
Summary: When the only copy of Ravished, Iris Stanford’s new manuscript, never arrives at her London publisher’s office, her daughter Kat investigates the tiny local village post office, where it appears the package never left the building. Iris is on tenterhooks–not only is her novel gone with the wind, but she’s deathly afraid that Muriel Jarvis, the postmistress and notorious busybody, will expose her secret identity as the bestselling romance writer Krystalle Storm. Meanwhile, Muriel has her own problems with the sudden death of her husband Fred, which has left her heavily in debt. In the spine-tingling climax, both past and present collide as Kat fights for her life and those she holds most dear, dancing once again with the dark forces lurking behind the grandeur of Honeychurch Hall.
Genre: Cozy Mystery
I’m a huge fan of this series (get caught up with my double-review for books 1 and 2 and my thoughts on book 3) and was thrilled to receive an early copy of the fourth installment, Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall! I couldn’t wait to dive back into the Honeychurch estate and reunite with this great group of characters, not to mention see whatever trouble Kat happened to find herself in!
Kat Stanford was once the host of Fakes & Treasures, an Antiques Roadshow-esque program until a failed relationship left her moving to a cottage on a country estate with her mother – who had been keeping up a secret identity all these years: Iris is actually Krystalle Storm, the wildly popular romance author. Kat had always wanted to open her own antiques shop and she’s finally making that dream a reality with Kat’s Collectibles. Unfortunately, she runs into several problems along the way, like a string of thefts in the village, a flock of tourists as the estate hosts their annual reenactment of the English Civil War, and a recently unearthed skeleton.
Though the first three novels can easily be read as standalones, I felt that Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall was very much a part of the series and required previous knowledge. There was very little in the way of recapping past events or character explanation and a newcomer to the series would have a hard time connecting the dots and understanding who’s who and how they tie together.
While the reenactment, or Skirmish as it’s locally known, seems to be the backbone of the book, it really only serves as a conversation topic. By the time the preparations and setting up are complete and the tourists descend on the town, the book is in its final chapters and quickly provides a rundown of what happened. Instead the main focus is on the characters, particularly some new faces, and one in particular made me extremely angry. Piers is Lord Rupert Honeychurch’s brother and by far the wilder of the pair. He also has something of a playboy reputation, which whatever, that’s fine with me, but it’s his love of pranks that left me seeing red. Shortly after he first meets Kat, he insists they go out for drinks. Later he shows up at her house and, instead of heading to the village pub, he blindsides her by taking her to the newest restaurant – one where the wait list is a mile long and reservations are practically impossible to come by. What does Piers do? He pretends he’s some famous restaurant critic for a French magazine in order to get them a table – AND a free seven-course meal (including multiple bottles of wine). Naturally Kat is horrified, especially when some of the fellow diners recognize her. At the end of their meal, Piers rushes outside, leaving Kat alone to take photos with the patrons and staff. The following morning, the truth is revealed and it’s her photo that graces the morning papers. It’s her reputation that’s now in tatters. She’s rightfully angry, but by the end of the book, she readily agrees to accompany Piers on a Parisian getaway. NO. This entire relationship/love interest/storyline made me so enraged, especially when there’s already a potential romance brewing between Kat and another character. The way Piers played the whole thing off as some hilarious joke was disgusting and I really do not want to see more of him in future novels.
As for the rest of the story, it was fun! I really enjoyed digging into the mystery – and history – of the skeleton’s origins and wouldn’t have minded if that had been the book’s focus. I wouldn’t say Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall is the strongest book in the series, but it was certainly an entertaining read, though I definitely would not recommend it for newcomers due to the lack of character introductions of recaps of the previous novels. That said, I really do love this series and cannot wait for the next!