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Posted April 8, 2014
The idea of poisoning someone with syllabub caught my attention.
This is a well researched story, steeped in colonial history. It takes place in the present day, but most of it is set in Colonial Williamsburg or a similarly historically old home. The attention to details is excellent.
I particularly enjoyed the fact that a key to the solution was an historical fact mentioned at dinner.
Posted November 17, 2013
I have to say that I struggled a little with what rating to give this book. Don't get me wrong--the book is well-written, basically clean, and quite clever. I appreciated the blending of history and mystery since both are preferred genres for my taste. I never found myself bored, and the characters were strongly developed. And I certainly didn't figure out the mystery. In fact, it was an incredibly complex mystery that still left me somewhat guessing towards the end. This is the first book I have read by this author, and she certainly writes a mystery novel that reminds us of the old mystery authors. I would easily compare her to Agatha Christie or the like.
My only misgiving in advocating this book is that it was so complex. I sometimes struggled to keep the characters straight (a cast list may help this matter), and I was still a bit nonplussed at the end of the story. There is no sex, and the profanity is very minimal (I was so happy about that--it clinched the 5-star rating for me!).
If you are looking for a cozy mystery that offers a bit of history and a robust story, this book is certainly for you!
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not financially compensated, and all opinions are 100 percent mine.
Posted October 10, 2013
Ever heard of murder by syllabub? I hadn't either until reading this book. Syllabub is an after dinner drink from back in Colonial days. This drink was allegedly prepared (and poisoned) by Ellen McKenzie who has accompanied her aunt Mary to help out her old friend Elizabeth living in VA. Elizabeth has seen a ghost and needs the help of amateur detective Ellen.
The characters are wonderful, Aunt Mary is delightfully quirky, the storyline is fun and I could go on and on. This is a fun read filled with interesting historical facts and a ...... dead ghost!
I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Posted September 30, 2013
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Different aspects of a book of fiction appeal to readers in varying degrees and a local setting is one that can really get me. When I found out that this entry in the Ellen McKenzie series—of which I was already a fan—is set in Colonial Williamsburg, I was immediately hooked. That lovely spot is right down the road from me, maybe an hour if I take the scenic route down Route 5 and I’ve been there many times. I’m a history junkie to start with and I feel privileged to live in a state where so much of the beginnings of our country took place.
The early plantations (many of which can be seen on the aforementioned Route 5) also appeal to me and, serendipitously, my daughter and I took a day trip just this past Saturday to tour one of them and drive around the grounds of several others. At one time or another in my lifetime, I’ve visited most of them but I never get tired of them so I was delighted to find that a fictional plantation is a central character in Murder by Syllabub. The author does a terrific job of letting the reader “feel” this plantation, Smithwood, and I had no trouble picturing in my mind where everything was happening. I really enjoyed all the authentic historical touches the author includes, such as how baking was done “back then”, as well as contemporary activities like the preservation of rare breeds.
Murder by Syllabub is a mixture of several mystery subgenres. It teeters on the edge of being a locked room mystery, it mixes police procedural with amateur sleuthing, it includes shades of historical fiction, it has a cold case as well as a current murder. There’s a strong hint of racial tension but also racial acceptance. Many would categorize this book, and the rest of the series, as cozy but I don’t really think that fits. For one thing, there is the blending of amateur and police, but I also think the settings take them out of the cozy domain, especially this one because Ellen is not finding bodies in her own small town, there isn’t a lot of humor (although there are light touches) and she doesn’t run around doing stupid things. (Don’t get me wrong, I love cozies but I just don’t think this is one.) So, I call this a traditional mystery.
Ms. Delaney has incorporated lots of characters in her story and we get to know just enough about the non-regulars to realize that any one of them MIGHT be the killer. I already am fond of Ellen, Dan and Aunt Mary but now I like some of these new folks and I hope Ellen will have a chance to see them again sometime in a future book. We also have a plethora of potential motives so it’s fair to say that red herrings are scattered around to make the reader have to do a bit of thinking, something I always appreciate. Does Cora Lee seem to be a little too defensive? Does Lt. McMann have a reason for dropping the search for Louis all those years ago? Is the shadow of slavery someone’s motive or could it be the desire to own property? Is a family name sacred enough to warrant murder or is this all about simple greed?
When things came to a head, I have to admit I was surprised. I had my suspicions but they were only partially right and, yet, the denouement made perfect sense. Once again, Ms. Delaney and Ellen have brought mystery readers a fine story. Oh, and you should try some syllabub ;-) . Here’s a recipe from Ms. Delaney’s website—
Now, a little housekeeping: I did come across one historical error but I didn’t notice anything else being off. However, while other reviews of Murder by Syllabub have been really good, I have to take exception with the reviewers that think the historical period is the Civil War (Colonial Williamsburg is all about the period from the late 1600′s through much of the Revolutionary War) and I’ll point out that Colonial Williamsburg and Virginia are not in New England although that error is probably due to the reviewer’s own location. No doubt I take umbrage at these things because it’s my home state that’s involved ;-) but none of this takes away from the fact that reviewers, including me, are loving this book.
One last note: there is no reason to be afraid of starting the series with this book as you will have no need to know what has happened in previous books. This is a terrific part of the series but serves just as well as a standalone.
Posted September 16, 2013
I received this book for a fair and honest review. The opinions in this review are 100% my own.
This is the type of book that grabs your attention from the very first page. There is no lag in the story, there is always some kind of action going on.
The murder of Monty is a classic "who done it". Monty did not lack enemies that's for sure. His murder ends up with more questions than answers.
The women of the Smithwood house are complicated women. While they are trying to figure out who the murder is, they are pretty tight lipped about how they are feeling about things.
The women are different in personality but all come together to make sure Elizabeth is not falsely accused.
This book will keep you keep you on the edge of your seat to find out what happens next right to the very end.
Although this book is part of a series, this book can be read as a stand alone. This is the only book I read in the series so I can only assume they are all like that. I give this book a 5 out of 5.
Posted September 6, 2013
Kathleen Delaney in her new book, “Murder by Syllabub” Book Five in the Ellen McKenzie Mystery series published by Camel Press gives us another mystery with Ellen McKenzie.
From the back cover: A ghost in Colonial dress has been wreaking havoc at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house is owned by Elizabeth Smithwood, the best friend of Ellen McKenzie’s Aunt Mary. Mary is determined to fly to the rescue, and Ellen has no choice but to leave her real estate business and new husband to accompany her. Who else will keep the old girl out of trouble?
When Ellen and Aunt Mary arrive, they find that Elizabeth’s “house” comprises three sprawling buildings containing all manner of secret entrances and passages, not to mention slave cabins. But who owns what and who owned whom? After Monty—the so-called ghost and stepson of Elizabeth’s dead husband—turns up dead in Elizabeth’s house, suspicion falls on her. Especially when the cause of death is a poisoned glass of syllabub taken from a batch of the sweet, creamy after-dinner drink sitting in Elizabeth’s refrigerator.
Monty had enemies to spare. Why was he roaming the old house? What was he searching for? To find the truth, Ellen and her Aunt Mary will have to do much more than rummage through stacks of old crates; they will have to expose two hundred years of grudges and vendettas. The spirits they disturb are far deadlier than the one who brought them to Virginia.
Murder by Syllabub is the fifth book of the Ellen McKenzie Mystery series.
Any story that has a Civil War era plantation in Virginia and a poisoned dessert drink sounds like a winner. And Kathleen Delaney has batted in a home run. Jessica Fletcher from the “Murder, She Wrote” Television series, as good as she was, was never as good as Ellen McKenzie is. Ellen is up against 100 years of Southern history as she weeds through the motives the various individuals have for the murder and there are plenty of suspects and there is also the cooking. ”Murder by Syllabub” is a wonderful thriller as the tension mounts as Ellen is trying to identify the killer. ”Murder by Syllabub” is loaded with twists and turns and red herrings that will leave you guessing all the while you are flipping pages to find out what happens next. Ms. Delaney has provided us with a great character in Ellen McKenzie and I am going to go and get the previous four books to hold me over until the next book in this series comes out.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Partners In Crime. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”