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The Charm Stone

The Charm Stone

4.4 5
by Lillian Stewart Carl

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Witches weren't burned in colonial Virginia. They were hanged. But in the twenty-first century no one should be hanged from the trees of historic Williamsburg. Not even batty conspiracy theorists, however much Jean Fairbairn's significant other, ex-Scottish cop Alasdair Cameron, might sometimes wish he could pass judgment. Especially when said dingbats may be involved


Witches weren't burned in colonial Virginia. They were hanged. But in the twenty-first century no one should be hanged from the trees of historic Williamsburg. Not even batty conspiracy theorists, however much Jean Fairbairn's significant other, ex-Scottish cop Alasdair Cameron, might sometimes wish he could pass judgment. Especially when said dingbats may be involved in the theft of a Williamsburg-crafted replica of a sixteenth-century Witch Box, stolen from a Scottish castle for which Alasdair has been supervising security-even though the original Witch Box is safe in a Williamsburg museum.

The Charm Stone went missing from the original Witch Box three hundred years ago. Perhaps it was not a traditional healing stone at all but a cursing stone. Perhaps it was lost somewhere in the colony of Virginia. Perhaps someone will kill to find it.

Can Jean maintain her resolve to abandon the academic battlefield forever, or will she be tempted back into combat by an appealing former colleague, Matthew Frost? And what about Alasdair, who is supposedly retired from the rigors of law enforcement, but who is now confronted not only by a theft but two murder cases-and by Stephanie Venegas, the detective in charge?

Amid the falling leaves and autumn shadows, Jean and Alasdair must deal again with murder most grotesque, its roots deep in history and myth. With ghosts only they can see. With things going bump in the night of their own relationship.

It's All Hallows Eve in historic Williamsburg, Virginia....

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Carl's well-crafted fourth Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron mystery (after 2007's The Burning Glass) takes Jean, a journalist for travel magazine Great Scot, and Alasdair, a former detective, from Edinburgh to historic Williamsburg, Va. While attending a reception at a local museum, Jean spies the Witch Box, a 16th-century chest curiously missing its charm stone. The mystery behind the origin of the box heightens with the theft of a replica and the death of the replica's Williamsburg designer in a tragic accident. A myriad cast of characters adds plenty of suspects to the list of possible murderers after a body is discovered hanging from a tree on All Hallows Eve. Could the killer be a female professor who specializes in the arts of witchcraft or an eccentric man bent on proving that witchcraft and the supernatural don't exist? While detailed descriptions of various historical artifacts tend to slow the action, cozy fans should be satisfied. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Traveling from Scotland to Williamsburg, VA, Scottish ex-cop Alasdair Cameron and reporter Jean Fairbairn combine overseeing the security of a 16th-century Witch Box with a little vacation. When murder gets in the way and a Williamsburg-crafted replica is stolen, they find that quotes from Shakespeare and a missing charm stone lead them into a real-life tangle. VERDICT Readers of Amy Myers's "Marsh and Daughter" series will like this fourth series entry (after The Burning Glass).
Kirkus Reviews
Historic Williamsburg has been the scene of many provocative acts of violence. The latest isn't a reenactment. Jean Fairbairn and Alasdair Cameron have flown to the Virginia town from Scotland. Jean plans to write an article for Great Scot on the Witch Box, a 16th-century artifact once owned by the Dingwall family. The box went to the New World with an 18th-century ancestor who thought she would find in Virginia the charm stone that had gone missing from her box, proclaim Tim and Sharon Dingwall, who are much given to conspiracy theories-somewhat understandably, since a replica of the box has just been stolen from their castle. Alasdair, who's left the police to head a security agency, wants to examine the original in Williamsburg's DeWitt Wallace Museum. When the replica maker is found murdered and Sharon is hanged from a tree in the historic area, Alasdair and Jean provide help behind the scenes to Detective Stephanie Venegas. Tim's son and his sister are obvious suspects in the theft of the box, as are a former colleague of Jean's and his divorced wife, daughter and mother, all of them entangled with the Dingwall family in various suspicious ways. A ghost haunts the cottage the sleuths are inhabiting, and somehow even the unlucky Scottish Play is involved. Though Carl (The Burning Glass, 2007, etc.) could have pruned this installment, she manages to tie up the loose ends, renew Jean and Alasdair's shaky relationship and describe Williamsburg in a manner that will delight former visitors and intrigue those who have never been there.

Product Details

Wildside Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

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Charm Stone 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
bbMO More than 1 year ago
I love the premise of this series of books.  I'm very much into history, very interested in archaeology, and love anything Scottish.  Ms. Carl's books have all of these things in spades.  I'm not big on murder mystery, but for those interested in a good mystery, that is a plus as well.  The only thing I wasn't thrilled with was the rough spot in Jean and Alasdair's relationship.  While I am aware that a bit of romantic angst is a tried and true formula, this one left me feeling a bit uncomfortable.  At one point I found myself thinking, "Oh, was that a fight they just had?  Not sure that was worthy of a period of not speaking, and each of them hanging off their side of the bed."   Other than that one small complaint, I like everything about these books.  I've read the previous books in the series, and will definitely read the rest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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MaryMiley More than 1 year ago
It's always fun reading a novel that's set in a place you know, and that explains part of the pleasure I had reading Lillian Stewart Carl's THE CHARM STONE (2009). The story is set in Williamsburg, Virginia, mostly in the restored Historic Area that I know well, as does Ms. Carl-not a single "gotcha!" in this book. But the appeal of THE CHARM STONE goes far beyond its quaint setting. It is the fourth in the series featuring American Jean Fairbairn and Scot Alasdair Cameron, two 40-something sleuths (one amateur, one professional) who share a sixth sense for the supernatural as well as a bed. As befits its historical setting, the mystery has its origins in the 16th century with a Witch Box, a carved chest that once had an embedded green stone. The stone went missing in the 18th century when a servant girl stole it and took it to America, believing in its healing powers. Fast forward to the present, when the original Witch Box resides in a Williamsburg museum, minus its stone, of course. But a replica of the box that had been carefully crafted by a Williamsburg cabinetmaker is stolen from its place in another historic house and the craftsman who made it turns up dead in what was once known as Duck Witch Pond. Why would anyone go to the trouble of stealing a replica? Enter a couple of publicity-seeking conspiracy theorists whose research has turned up an old letter written by Lady Dunmore, the wife of Virginia's last royal governor. The Dunmore letter mentions the charm stone and stokes the couple's delusions about finding the fabled papers of Francis Bacon in the graveyard of Bruton Parish Church-a notion so ridiculous it's hard to believe that for the past several decades, there have, in fact, been various attempts to dig up the Williamsburg graveyard in search of this supposed treasure. No witches were hanged in colonial Virginia but at least one was tried, and as Jean delves into the history of the charm stone, she finds that several accused witches are tied into the story. Her significant other, Alasdair, is kept busy helping local police investigate the connection between the missing Witch Box replica and the murdered craftsman, until another body turns up, hanging from a tree in the middle of town. Now everyone is asking, where is the letter from the governor's wife? And just why is it worth so many lives?
harstan More than 1 year ago
For the past several years Texas born forty year old writer Jean Fairbairn has lived in Scotland with her lover former cop Alasdair Cameron. However, she and Alasdair are in Virginia researching an article on Lady Dunsmore, wife of the last English governor of the Commonwealth for the magazine she co-owns, Great Scot. Whereas Jean plans on working, Alasdair plans on enjoying Williamsburg as a welcome respite from his private security company, Protect and Survive. Dunsmore owned a "witch box" which allegedly contained a charm stone that is on display at the nearby DeWitt Wallace Museum. Meanwhile Alasdair receives a call from home that someone stole a replica of the Dunsmore witch box from Blair Castle, where his firm provides security. Apparently Kelly Dingwall accidentally set off an alarm in the private section of the castle; during the turmoil the box was taken. Alasdair has suspicions that the alarm was deliberate because Kelly is the sister to Tim Dingwall, who along with his wife Sharon, are infamous for their views. When two murders occur, Williamsburg Detective Stephanie Venegas leads the inquiry, but reluctantly allows the out of towners to assist once she checks up on them. This fascinating romantic police procedural works on two fronts. First the relationship that seemed so strong (see The Secret Portrait, The Murder Hole and The Burning Glass) seems to be unraveling with plenty of deep symbolism and metaphors in which readers will never look at a toothbrush or a hairbrush the same way. Second there is the investigation in which the local detective reluctantly allows the lead couple to help as the theft in Scotland seems tied to the homicides in Virginia. The forth entry is the charm for fans of the series. Harriet Klausner