Death Comes to the Village (Kurland St. Mary Series #1)

Death Comes to the Village (Kurland St. Mary Series #1)

4.1 17
by Catherine Lloyd
     
 

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A wounded soldier and a rector's daughter discover strange goings-on in the sleepy village of Kurland St. Mary in Catherine Lloyd's charming Regency-set mystery debut.

Major Robert Kurland has returned to the quiet vistas of his village home to recuperate from the horrors of Waterloo. However injured his body may be, his mind is as active as ever. Too active

Overview

A wounded soldier and a rector's daughter discover strange goings-on in the sleepy village of Kurland St. Mary in Catherine Lloyd's charming Regency-set mystery debut.

Major Robert Kurland has returned to the quiet vistas of his village home to recuperate from the horrors of Waterloo. However injured his body may be, his mind is as active as ever. Too active, perhaps. When he glimpses a shadowy figure from his bedroom window struggling with a heavy load, the tranquil facade of the village begins to loom sinister…

Unable to forget the incident, Robert confides in his childhood friend, Miss Lucy Harrington. As the dutiful daughter of the widowed rector, following up on the major's suspicions offers a welcome diversion—but soon presents real danger. Someone is intent on stopping their investigation. And in a place where no one locks their doors, a series of thefts and the disappearance of two young serving girls demands explanation…

As Robert grapples with his difficult recovery, he and Lucy try to unearth the dark truth lurking within the village shadows, and stop a killer waiting to strike again…

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 10/14/2013
Two unlikely allies—Maj. Robert Kurland, who suffered a serious leg injury at the Battle of Waterloo, and his childhood friend and de facto housekeeper, Miss Lucy Harrington—join forces in Lloyd’s delightful debut, the first in a Regency series set in the English village of Kurland St. Mary. When Robert spots a person carrying a heavy load near the church one night, he suggests Lucy, the rector’s oldest daughter, make some discreet inquiries regarding a spate of recent pilfering. The disappearance of a maidservant is also cause for concern. When Lucy, who resents being constrained because she’s a woman, bridles at being denied a more active role in the investigation, Robert’s valet and butler try to rein her in. Lucy also must deal with her father’s selfishness, her rambunctious twin brothers, the curate’s unwelcome admiration, and a beautiful sister whose prospects exceed her own. Readers will hope that death returns soon to Kurland St. Mary. Agent: Deidre Knight, Knight Agency. (Dec.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-04
Burglary and a missing person report disrupt the quiet of Kurland St. Mary in 1816. Maj. Robert Kurland may be a hero of the Battle of Waterloo, but his broken leg leaves him helpless as a baby. On a sleepless night, he thinks he sees a dark shadow carrying something to the church. His overly solicitous valet, who saved his life in battle, thinks Kurland was seeing something that wasn't there, thanks to the laudanum that's been easing his pain. Only Lucy Harrington, the rector's oldest daughter, takes Kurland seriously. As a substitute mother for her siblings and a general caregiver to the community, she's already worried since one of her servants has disappeared. Although Lucy doesn't shrink from the less savory aspects of life, her suspicion that one of her brothers might be involved in a series of burglaries is hard to face. She and Kurland collaborate to find out how a snuffbox, an opened grave, an impoverished curate and a jilted lover are linked to what Kurland saw in this slow-paced Jane Austen imitation that doesn't omit a single cliché of the genre, including the sprinkling of freckles across the bridge of Lucy's nose. A Regency Rear Window whose chair-bound hero and the woman who civilizes him generate a few sparks worthy of Darcy and Elizabeth. But even the harder-edged elements of gambling, drug use and suicidal obsession can't set this period debut on fire.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780758287335
Publisher:
Kensington
Publication date:
11/26/2013
Series:
Kurland St. Mary Series, #1
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
177,766
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Death Comes to the Village


By Catherine Lloyd

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2013 Catherine Lloyd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7582-8734-2


CHAPTER 1

February 1816 Kurland St. Mary, England


"Damnation!"

Major Robert Kurland jerked awake from his uneasy half-sleep to the hoot of a barn owl and glared out into the darkness, his breathing uneven, his mouth dry.

When he was able to walk, he was going to take a gun out to the woods and slaughter every nocturnal creature that had disturbed his sleep for the past few months. Selfish, perhaps, but when sleep was as precious to him as water to a dying man, completely justified.

He levered himself upright against his pillows, aware of a fresh pain pounding in his head and the now familiar dragging ache of his broken leg. Foolishly, he'd instructed his valet to leave the curtains open, and now the entire landscape beyond his windows was bathed in moonlight. His gaze turned to the black bottle of laudanum and glass of water on his nightstand. He could dose himself, slide back down into the warmth of his bed, and sink into oblivion....

It was tempting. But despite his doctor's advice, Robert was reluctant to take too much of the opiate. Its siren call dulled his senses and made him forgetful and quite unlike himself. Resolutely, he turned his attention to the problem at hand. He would never get back to sleep unless he closed the curtains. The old clock on the mantelpiece wheezed and struck twice. If he rang the bell, Bookman would come, but it seemed wrong to disturb the other man's rest. He would simply have to manage for himself.

Robert drew back the covers and studied his bandaged and splinted left leg. If he'd been a horse, they would have shot him, rather than painstakingly trying to reset his shattered bones. Sometimes during the last hellish months, he wondered if that would've been for the best. Even after all this time, his leg was still pretty damn useless. He used his upper body strength to pivot and placed both his feet on the floor. Even such a small effort made him sweat and curse like the lowest class of soldier he'd commanded.

He grabbed hold of the dresser next to his bed and lifted himself upright, carefully placing the majority of his weight over his right side. It wasn't that far to the windows, and there were plenty of objects he could use to support himself along the way. Part of him was revolted by the spectacle he made, dragging his wounded body around. The rest of him refused to give up. If he stayed in bed, he was afraid he would eventually lose the will to rise again.

He staggered from the dresser to the wing chair by the fireside and sat long enough to regain his breath and determination. In the distance, the squat tower of the Norman church that divided his property from the village proper stood stark against the night sky. There was a path from the side of Kurland Hall that led directly to the church and the boxed pew his family had occupied for Sunday worship for generations. Not that he believed in God anymore, but appearances had to be maintained.

When he recovered, he would certainly take his seat in his appointed place at the front of the church. He'd learned the value of setting a good example, first from his father and then from the army.

If he recovered ...

Robert set his teeth and stood up again, his attention fixed on the large bay windows. Three more lurching steps brought him up against a small desk that creaked rather ominously when he rested his weight against it. His chest was heaving as if he'd run a race, and his heart pounded so loudly he could hear it over the ticking of the clock. A shadow flickered over the full moon, and Robert saw the soaring outline of one of the owls.

He transferred his gaze to the heavy silk embroidered curtains. If he leaned forward, could he at least draw one of them closed? He reached out his hand, overbalanced, and had to rock back on his heels, sending an excruciating stab of pain up his left leg. The desk swayed along with him on its equally spindly legs. He propped himself up against the wall to regroup. Sweat ran down his face and his vision blurred.

He focused on the reassuring bulk of the church until his breathing steadied. He could do this. He had to do this. The ability to close his own damned curtains was a symbol of all his frustrations over the past few months. There was another chair close to the center of the two windows. If he could just reach that, he would achieve his aim. He stumbled forward and clutched at the back of the dainty chair, half-bent over it. As he straightened, his attention was caught by another shadow flitting across the park below.

He frowned. Not flitting. Whatever was out there was moving rather slowly, as if overburdened. Robert squinted and realized he wasn't looking at an animal, but at a person carrying something heavy, either in his arms, or over his shoulder. The unknown being continued toward the church, his shadow thrown up against the old flint wall into gigantic proportions.

"What the devil is going on?" Robert wondered aloud, as he craned his neck to get a better look. The chair tipped and he fell, his hands grabbing uselessly for purchase. Like a wounded animal, he turned, so that his right side hit the floor first and absorbed the sudden impact that made him want to puke up his guts. He came to rest on his back staring up at the white stucco ceiling. Considering the noise he'd made, he expected half his household to come tearing into his bedroom.

All remained quiet apart from the derisive hooting of the owls.

Robert wanted to laugh. He'd reached his goal, but he still hadn't managed to draw the curtains, and he was destined for an incredibly uncomfortable night on the floor. So much for the gallant major. He threw his forearm over his eyes and pressed hard. He hadn't cried since he was seven and been sent away to boarding school. Dignity be damned. He'd crawl back to bed.


"Now, don't forget to visit Major Kurland today, Lucy."

Lucy Harrington glanced at her father as he sat serenely drinking tea and eating boiled ham at the head of the table. Breakfast at the rectory was always a noisy affair, and this fine spring morning was no exception. Anna and Anthony were arguing about the weather, and the twins were throwing crusts of bread at each other. Sunlight gleamed through the bow windows, glancing off the silver coffeepot and the blond hair of the rector's two youngest children. Not that anything could make the twins look angelic. Before she could frame an appropriate answer, she coaxed the dripping honey-covered spoon from young Michael's fierce grip and endeavored to wipe his sticky face.

"Did you hear me, Lucy?"

"Yes, Papa, I did." She patted her youngest brother on the head, and poured him some more milk. "Are you not able to attend the major yourself?"

He frowned at her over the top of his spectacles. "I have to go to the horse fair at Saffron Walden. I need a new hunter."

Of course, her father's passion for horseflesh would always trump his other duties. Lucy nodded at the twins, and they hurriedly got down from the table and disappeared through the door. Moments later, Lucy heard their nurse calling them and the clatter of two sets of boots stealing down the back stairs. She supposed she should go and find the boys before they escaped into the woods, but her father gazed at her as though he expected an answer.

"I don't think Major Kurland enjoys my company, Papa." She placed her knife on her plate. "He much prefers to converse with you."

"Nonsense, my dear." The rector rose to his feet and surveyed the ruins of the breakfast table. "It is your duty to succor the sick and the poor, regardless of your own selfish desires."

Lucy raised her chin. "It is wash day. Who will supervise the staff if I am off visiting the sick?"

"You will contrive, Lucy. You always do." The rector folded his newspaper and laid it on the linen tablecloth. "I have the latest London papers in my study. Perhaps you might take them to Major Kurland and amuse him by reading the court scandal. It cannot be easy for a man of action such as our esteemed major to be laid up."

"I'm sure it isn't, Papa, but—"

The rector pushed in his chair. "I will be back for dinner, my dear. Please tell Cook that I cannot stomach any more mutton."

"I'll take out a line and fish for our dinner if you like," Anthony cut in with a wink at Lucy.

The rector paused to look down his long, aristocratic nose at his son. "You, sir, will be studying with Mr. Galton for your entrance exams for Cambridge."

"Not all day. I'll find time to fish. That is, if Lucy doesn't make me do the laundry."

Lucy smiled at her brother. "I wouldn't dare take you away from your studies."

Anthony grinned and returned his attention to his plate. Like most young men, his appetite was inexhaustible and quite indifferent to the ebb and flow of emotion around the rectory table.

"Well, whatever you put in front of me tonight, it had better not be mutton." The rector placed his spectacles in his waistcoat pocket. "I'll take Harris with me. You don't need him, do you?"

"No, Papa." Lucy started gathering up the dishes the twins had abandoned. "And I'll make sure Cook understands about your requirements for dinner."

Her father paused to kiss the top of her head before departing for the stables. His loud, cheerful voice boomed through the hallways, calling for Harris to bring his horse around. Lucy rested her chin on her hand and stared down at the crumbled remains of her toast and marmalade.

"It's all right, sis. I'll find time to go and fish whatever Father says."

She looked up at Anthony. "I'd appreciate it if you did. Unfortunately, unless you catch a whale, the rest of us will still be eating mutton. Cook has a whole side to get rid of."

Anthony groaned. "Can't you give that to the poor? I'm sure Major Kurland would love a bowl of mutton stew."

"He'd probably throw it at my head." Lucy put the lid on the butter dish. "A more ill-tempered man I have never met."

"But Lucy!" exclaimed her sister Anna. "He was wounded fighting for his king and country at Waterloo. You can hardly expect him to be pleasant."

"He was pleasant enough when I first visited him with Father. It is only since I've taken up the burden of visiting him alone that he appears to think he owes me no courtesy whatsoever."

Anna reached across to squeeze Lucy's hand. At twenty, she was the acknowledged beauty of the family and only five years younger than Lucy. Her temperament was sunny and obliging and, unlike Lucy, she always saw the good in everyone. She was fair like the twins, whereas Lucy and her brother favored their dark-haired father.

"He can't help being difficult. Have you tried to cheer him up?"

"Of course I haven't. I sit there and sob into my handkerchief and bemoan his wounds."

"There is no need to be flippant." Anna glanced across at Anthony. "I just wondered if perhaps you were a little 'sharp' with him."

"As I am with my family?" Lucy raised her eyebrows. "Anna, if you want to visit the man in my stead, please, be my guest."

A delicate flush blossomed on Anna's cheeks. "Oh no, I'm sure he wouldn't want to see me."

"Fancy yourself lady of the manor, do you, Anna?" Anthony nudged his sister. "Even when you were a little girl, you always idolized Major Kurland."

Lucy sat back to survey her blushing sister. "That's true. I'd forgotten. You used to follow him around like an acolyte."

Anna sipped at her tea and kept her gaze demurely downcast. "Despite the great disparity in our ages, he was always very kind to me."

Lucy finished her toast. "Then perhaps you should go. I'll wager he won't snap at you for trying to make conversation."

"So that she can swoon over him?" Anthony snorted. "He's fifteen years older than her."

"So? Father was fifteen years older than Mother. It's quite common for a husband to be older than a wife."

"And yet she died before him because she had too many children." Anna's smile disappeared. "She was simply worn out with it."

Lucy reached for Anna's hand. "That might be true, but as Father will no doubt remind you, that is a woman's lot in life."

Anna snatched her hand free. "That doesn't make it any better, though, does it?"

Lucy could only agree. The loss of their mother in childbed almost seven years ago had devastated their family and left nineteen-year-old Lucy in charge of two squalling infants. As her mother became a distant memory, Lucy sometimes felt as if the twins were her children. They certainly treated her as their mother. She would be devastated when they were sent away to school in the autumn.

Lucy rose to her feet. There was no point sitting around moping. She'd learned long ago that achieved nothing. "Anna, if you don't wish to visit Major Kurland, you will have to supervise Betty and Mary while they do the laundry."

She tried not to look hopeful. Perhaps that would make Anna change her mind and take on her least favorite obligation of the day. To her disappointment, her sister merely nodded.

"Of course, I'll help. Shall I ring for Betty to clear the table?"

"No, I'll do it myself." Lucy glanced out the window at the bright sky. "Betty is already stripping the beds, and I don't want to disturb her. Best to start on the washing before this fine weather disappears."

"I'll help, too," Anthony offered. "Mr. Galton won't be here for another hour."

"But aren't you supposed to be aiding Edward in the church?"

Anthony's charming smile flashed out, reminding Lucy of her father. "Oh, Edward will manage. He doesn't like my assistance anyway. He worries that Father might give me his job." He snorted. "As if I would want to be a poor curate in a village like this."

"Hush, Anthony," Lucy admonished her brother. "Edward can hardly help his circumstances, can he? And if it weren't for him, Father couldn't avoid all the more onerous duties of being the rector of several small parishes."

"He likes the income, though, doesn't he?" Anthony finished his tea in one gulp.

"That's none of our business," Lucy said severely. "Despite his private income, Papa also has a large family to provide for. How do you think he pays for your tutor?"

Anthony's mouth settled into a sulky line. "He pays more for his horses than he does for my education, and he barely pays his curate a pittance."

The curate, Edward Calthrope, was a worthy man of about Lucy's age who lived with them at the rectory. He performed all the mundane tasks associated with the parish of Kurland St. Mary and the adjoining parishes of Lower Kurland and Kurland St. Anne that the rector was supposed to spiritually mentor, but preferred to avoid. Lucy wasn't quite sure of Edward's background as he rarely spoke about his family. How he had found his way to Kurland was something of a mystery.

"You should go and help Edward," Lucy admonished her brother. "He works far too hard."

"And I don't?" Anthony yawned, stretched out his legs, and looked down at his top boots. "I am cramming for Cambridge, you know."

Lucy picked up the nearest pile of plates and headed for the door. "And I have to visit Major Kurland. As Papa said, we all have to do things we'd rather not." She studied her brother. "You might not be so tired if you slept at night. I heard you creeping up the stairs at dawn this morning."

"Spying on me, Lucy? I didn't think it of you."

"Not spying, I was just getting up." She paused, but Anthony made no effort to explain where he'd been, and why should he? As a young man he was perfectly entitled to disappear when it suited him.

Anthony picked up his cup and plate. "All right, my dearest sister. I'm off to the church to scrape off candle wax and reset the mousetraps."

"Thank you." Lucy paused to smile at him. Despite his exasperating male habits, he was a remarkably good brother. She'd be losing him, too, if he passed his examinations and went up to Cambridge. That wasn't as worrying as the thought of losing the twins, but it still meant that her family was moving forward with their lives while she ...

"Oh Miss Lucy!"

She turned to find the twins' nurse running down the main staircase of the house, her cap askew and her skirts held up to her knees.

"What is it, Jane?"

"Them two young heathens have run off, again! Whatever am I to do with them?"

"Let them be for the moment. They'll have to stop running wild soon enough."

Jane mopped her brow with the corner of her apron. "That's true enough, miss, although how they will get on at school, I cannot imagine."
(Continues...)


Excerpted from Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd. Copyright © 2013 Catherine Lloyd. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Death Comes to the Village 4.1 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 17 reviews.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
Serene and cozy village life in early 1800's Kurland St Mary's England?  Hardly, as items are going missing in local homes and businesses, and two local girls seemed to have gone missing.  Major Robert Kurland has just recently returned to his manor house after being nearly crushed to death by a horse in the Battle of Waterloo.  He's spent long days in bed with pain, boredom, and coddling by his man servants.  One night, the moonlight through his window was just one annoyance to much.  But what he saw from his window got his brain to stirring.  Was that somebody carrying something large through the center of the village when everyone should be asleep?  His body may be failing him but his mind is as active as ever! Miss Lucy Harrington is his long time friend and eldest daughter of the local widowed rector. Unfortunately, the rector is more interested in his horses than in his congregation.  Lucy is left to manage the household, younger children, and visiting duties for his father's congregation.  What she really wants is a "season" in London resulting in a husband and a household of her own.  But her father has definitely made clear his ideas on that subject.  As the eldest daughter, her duty shall always be to her father.  When Lucy does her duty in visiting the bedridden Major, she hears his concerns about the village and she decides to do the footwork for their investigation into the towns mysteries. Finally, something more interesting than keeping her father's life in order.  But she is hindered by everyone's ideas of a " normal" woman's mental state at those times.  Major Kurland's apparent use of laudanum isn't helping their discussions of these mysteries either.  For lovers of such stories as Downton Abby and Upstairs Downstairs, this book should definitely draw you into the mysteries of Kurland St Mary!  It's a mystery cozy with a few intriguing twists and turns around village life in the early 1800's. Class and the morass of the times add so much to this clever mystery.   The characters are superbly written, and I want to read more about them for sure!  Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long series to come!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A regency mystery set in a small English village. A badly injured veteran of Waterloo, a rector's daughter, murder and theft. Not fast moving, but still interesting. I hope there's more to come about these characters; I'd like to see what happens next
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the diologue. The characters were well developed and the relationship between lucy snd robert is so fun. I too look forward to a sequel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it very much, well done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very enjoyable. I also read Death Comes To London, the second book in the series, and it was very good too. Can't wait for the next installment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable cozy mystery!
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: Death Comes to a Village - Kurland St. Mary Mystery Book 1 Author: Catherine Lloyd Published: 11-26-13 Publisher: Kensington Books Pages: 289 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Cozy Mystery, Historical - Regency England ISBN: 9780758285034 ASIN: B00DG7M2KU Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley . Major Robert Kurland is slowly recuperating from injuries received at Waterloo. Bored late one evening he spots a strange man trespassing on his property dragging something. When his legs give out he collapses and is not found until the following morning. Lucy Harrington, at her father's insistence acts as companion to the Major. Visiting and often reading to him. Even though she is busy with running the household and replacing a maid that has disappeared. The finally confides what he saw to her and the two begin to investigate the late night vision. . Ms. Lloyd has carefully recreates with words the regency era. A time where class was well defined and the genteel were far removed from the everyday lives of the staff in their homes. She has built a world easy to envision in your mind's eye so that you are there yourself, riding in the carriage, dressing in your finery for dinner or walking through the extensive gardens. The simpler, slower paced lifestyle of the time. The plot has only a few slow spots and moves at quite a steady pace. If you have a leaning towards regency books Death Comes The Village is definitely a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very quaint little mystery set in 19th century England. Not typically a book that I would enjoy, but I found this one to be enjoyable. Some of the characters were quite irritating (the protagonist's father, in particular), but the main character was thoroughly enjoyable. A good read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the entire series!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read. Different historical read for a change. Funny how the lead characters don't see they are attracted though. Didn't get that. Read the second in series but it will be 2015 before the third book is released. I hate that