First Lines: There were books everywhere. Hundreds of books. Thousands of books.
Storyton Hall is a book lovers' retreat nestled in the hills of rural western Virginia. As manager, it is Jane Steward's job to think of ways to entice more bibliophiles to come and spend money so badly needed repairs (like a new roof) can be done. Her first idea is for a Murder and Mayhem Week for mystery fans to gather together for a little role playing and "crime" solving. However, Felix Hampden, the winner of the scavenger hunt, is found dead in the Mystery Suite, and the valuable book he won is missing. It doesn't take much for Jane to realize that she's got a murderer on the premises. For the safety of her family, her guests, and her business, she's got to catch a killer.
I think Adams' Books By the Bay series are some of the very best cozies being written today. I love them, so I was excited to learn that she was writing a new series, and I bought a copy as soon as it arrived at my local bookstore. From the first paragraph, I was in heaven. Storyton Hall is any serious book lover's perfect world, and the countryside and village outside its walls complete the dream scenario. There are times when I read that I want to be drawn into the type of world that should exist but doesn't outside of my imagination. This is the sort of world that Ellery Adams has created in her first Book Retreat mystery.
I was enchanted. Jane's aunt and uncle are still deeply in love after decades of marriage. Jane deals with the public the way everyone wants to be treated. Her twin sons Hem and Fitz (Hemingway and Fitzgerald) are a pair of typical, high energy, ornery six-year-old boys. The staff working at Storyton Hall and even the small business owners in the nearby village are lovingly drawn individuals. Jane and her sons bicycle back and forth to the village. It was plain to see that the pages of this book were liberally sprinkled with fairy dust.
There are touches of humor throughout the book as well, but the scene that literally made me laugh out loud was the description of the garden in front of the Cheshire Cat Pub and what would happen some evenings when the pub patrons and local felines would gather together.
The mystery was a good one, keeping me guessing all along the way, but something happened in Murder in a Mystery Suite that just didn't set well with me. Problem is, I can't talk about it without screaming SPOILER ALERT in fluorescent pink flashing neon ten feet high. Spoiler alerts in reviews just aren't my style, so suffice it to say that the suspension bridge of my disbelief collapsed like "Galloping Gertie" did in 1940. That's all I'll say on the subject, but if any of you read the book and want to talk about it, feel free to email me.
I may have just scared some of you away from reading this book, but don't forget that mileage can certainly vary when it comes to reading books. Your suspension bridge may be much more stable than mine, so don't be afraid to give this book a try. If you're still feeling nervous, then head on over to Ellery Adams' Books By the Bay series. It's marvelous.
Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams
Berkley Prime Crime © 2014
Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages
Cozy Mystery, #1 Book Retreat mystery
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.