The first in a brand-new series from New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly!
Katherine Hamilton’s goal in high school was to escape from her dead-end hometown of Asheford, Maryland. Fifteen years later she’s got a degree in hospitality management and a great job at a high-end boutique hotel in Baltimore. Until, that is, the hotel is acquired by a chain, and she’s laid off. When Kate’s high school best friend calls with a mysterious invitation to come talk with the town leaders of Asheford, she agrees to make the trip, curious about where this new opportunity might lead.
Once Kate arrives, the town council members reveal that their town is on the verge of going bankrupt, and they’ve decided that Kate’s skills and knowledge make her the perfect person to cure all their ills. The town has used its last available funds to buy the huge Victorian mansion just outside of town, hoping to use it to attract some of the tourists who travel to visit the nearby Civil War battle sites. Kate has less-than-fond memories of the mansion, for personal reasons, but to make matters worse, the only person who has presented a possible alternate plan is Cordelia WalkerKate’s high school nemesis.
But a few days later, while touring the mansion, Kate stumbles over a bodyand it’s none other than Cordelia. Kate finds herself juggling the murder investigation and her growing fascination with the old house, which itself is full of long-hidden mysteries. Kate must clear her name and save her townbefore she ends up in hot water.
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I stopped in the doorway of the second-floor restaurant at the Oriole Suites Hotel in Baltimore, where I'd worked for the past five years, looking for Lisbeth. She'd called out of the blue and asked to meet me for lunch, but she'd been very secretive about why, which led me to think it was more than just a "hey, how are you, what have you been doing for the past ten years?" kind of lunch. Still, we'd been good friends in high school then sort of drifted apart. As far as I knew, she'd stayed in Asheboro ever since, going to the local community college, marrying a local guy, having a couple of kids. Unlike me: I'd headed out of state for college and never looked back. Not that there was anything wrong with Asheboro, Maryland. It was a nice small town — with emphasis on the "small" — but I'd always had bigger plans. Most of what I knew about Asheboro now had come from holiday cards from the few people I'd kept in touch with, like Lisbeth.
She spotted me standing in the doorway and waved enthusiastically. I smiled and wove my way through the tables until I reached hers. When she'd called me, I'd made the reservation for us, and made sure there was a nice view of Baltimore Harbor. Working for the hotel had a few perks.
"Katie, you look great!" she exclaimed, standing and hugging me. "Love your outfit. But then, you work in a city, so I guess you have to look good. I had to dig into the back of my closet to find something to wear that wasn't jeans or sweats. I'm so glad you could meet with me!"
"It was great to hear from you," I told her, as we took our seats. "How long has it been?" "I think you came to Jeffrey's christening. He's eight now."
"Wow, that long? But since my folks moved to Florida, I haven't had much reason to visit Asheboro."
"They bailed out early, didn't they? What are they, fifty-something?"
"Yes. But they always figured they'd head south eventually, and they decided to go while they were still mobile enough to enjoy it. They didn't want to get stuck in one of those old-folks towers on the beach. They've got a nice small cottage that suits them, and I get to visit when I want."
"Sounds great!" Lisbeth said, although I sensed a false note in her voice. "Anything new with you? A guy? Or lady? Kids?"
"No to all of those," I told her, smiling. "I'm married to my job, and that's enough for me."
A waiter appeared. I smiled at him; I knew Tony pretty well, since I often dropped into the restaurant to pick up something to eat. He handed us menus, and we ordered iced tea.
"What's good here?" Lisbeth asked Tony, staring in awe at the multipage menu.
"If you want some local flavor, the crab cakes are great."
"Okay, I'll do those." She shut the menu with a firm slap and handed it to Tony. "How long have you been working at the hotel, Katie?"
"About five years. I don't remember when I last updated you, but you already know I went to college, worked for a while, decided I wanted to be in management so I got an MBA, worked at a big chain hotel in Philadelphia for a couple of years. Then this hotel opened up in Baltimore, and I snagged a really good job in administration, and here I am."
"I'm surprised you came back to Maryland," Lisbeth said. "Didn't you want to travel, see other places? Los Angeles? Chicago? London?"
"I thought about it, but this was too good a job to pass up and I was given a free hand, since the hotel was new."
Waiter Tony delivered the tea and slipped away again. "What exactly is it you do here?" Lisbeth asked.
Since I'd more or less created the position, it wasn't easy to explain. "A little of everything. I'm in charge of customer satisfaction. I know, that sounds vague, but it's kind of a catch-all job about making sure that everything goes smoothly. No, more than that, really: that everything is comfortable but memorable. Appearance, cleanliness, responsiveness of the staff, even the quality of the food and the polish on the silverware and glassware. We want people to go home talking about this place, sending their friends here, coming back themselves."
"You always were a little OCD," Lisbeth said. When I looked startled, she spoke quickly to explain. "In a good way, of course. I mean, you were always really well organized. You turned in your assignments on real paper, not just something torn out of a notebook. You always spell-checked everything twice. When we were on the soccer team, you always knew all the rules, and you even argued with the refs now and then. Now you just do it on a much bigger scale. I mean, you've got a whole hotel here!"
Had Lisbeth really seen me that way, years ago? "Yes, but you can still break it down into smaller tasks, like service staff, restaurant, website, reservations, and so on. I won't bore you with it all. What about you? What have you been doing?"
Tony brought our lunch dishes and refilled our water glasses, then disappeared discreetly once again. While we ate Lisbeth nattered on about her husband, and her kids, and how smart they were (all of them), and how wonderful, and what a busy life she led — what with the PTA and the annual school fund drive, and her daughter's Brownie troop and her son's softball team. I listened with half an ear and tried to summon up my memories of Asheboro: small town, one main street, one stoplight in the center. Surrounded by pretty rolling country (although for all I knew it was nothing but strip malls now) and near a lot of Civil War battlefields, but most history buffs just passed right through, since there was no reason to stop in town. One elementary school, ending with eighth grade, and one high school — or maybe now there was a regional high school — I wasn't exactly on their email list for updates. One old factory that had been closed since long before we were born. Maybe it had fallen down by now. Parents had warned us to stay away from it, but there were always a few guys who couldn't resist a dare. Yet I couldn't recall that anybody had ever gotten hurt there. I had no recollection of what the old factory had made.
My hometown was sounding really dull, even to me — and I'd been more or less happy growing up there. So I hurried to recall a few good points: no violence, no poverty, no pollution. It was a safe, quiet town, like so many others. It was also a place I hadn't wanted to stay, but that didn't mean that good people didn't go on living happy lives there. People like Lisbeth, who seemed to have thrived in that setting.
I noticed that Lisbeth kept darting nervous glances as me. Did she have another motive that she hadn't mentioned? "So, what brings you to Baltimore, Lisbeth? Don't tell me it's just to have lunch with me and catch up. Are you leaving your husband? Looking for a job?"
She giggled nervously. "No, no, nothing like that. Phil and I are fine. He's got a great job. The kids are healthy and happy. I keep busy with volunteering, like I told you, and we're doing okay financially."
She wasn't answering my question, so I pressed on. "You wanted a mini-vacation? Come on, Lisbeth, there's something you aren't saying. Isn't there?"
She sighed and looked out at the sparkling harbor, the clusters of people passing by, the boats on the water — anywhere but at me. "I have a favor to ask. Or we do. And it's a big one."
We? "You mean, you and Phil? And what's big?"
"No, actually, I mean the town." She took a deep breath. "We want you to save Asheboro."
Well, that was something I didn't expect to hear. "What on earth do you mean?"
"It's kind of complicated. You have time?"
"After a request like that, I'll make time. Start at the beginning."
Tony appeared again. "Would you ladies care for anything else?"
"Just coffee for me, please," Lisbeth told him. I asked for coffee too, but I also requested one of the petit fours plates to share for dessert. The restaurant had a great chef and baking staff, and I'd asked that they create a plate of small bites for those patrons who didn't want anything heavy to end their meal. It had proved very popular, even for people requesting room service, and I was proud of it. Attention to detail in the hospitality business was important.
My mind was wandering. Was I stalling for time? Lisbeth was staring at me with an odd expression on her face, but she stayed silent until Tony reappeared with the pretty platter of goodies and set it carefully between us, then retrieved the polished coffee carafe and filled our cups. Then he retreated silently.
I looked her straight in the eye. "Have a strawberry tartlet and then tell me what the heck is going on, Lisbeth."
She reached tentatively for the silver-dollar-size pastry and took a bite — and smiled. "Ooh, this is good."
"I know it is. What is it you want me to do?"
Lisbeth finished the tartlet with a second bite. "I'm what I guess you'd call an emissary, although I was the one who brought your name up, and volunteered to come talk to you. When was the last time you visited Asheboro?"
I had to stop and think. "I know I was there to help my folks pack for the move — that must have been at least three years ago. Other than that I have no reason to go back. I haven't been to a high school reunion. Why?"
"You heard about that big storm a couple of weeks ago?"
"I saw it on the news, but they didn't mention Asheboro." Now she was beginning to worry me. "Was the town in its path?"
"No, not directly, but close enough. There was a lot of damage, mostly superficial rather than structural. You know, high winds blowing shingles off, or siding. But a lot of people had been putting off fixing things the past few years, so things were loose, you know? And people, mainly the store owners, were cutting back on their insurance, because it just cost too much. They may not be able to make all the repairs they'd like to, so they might just pack up and go somewhere else."
I still didn't see where I fit in this. "Can't the town help? There must be some municipal funds for emergencies."
"Well, yes, there would be, normally. But ... you remember the old Barton place, outside of town?"
"Sort of. Did it blow down?"
"No, not at all. It was built to last. You probably don't remember the history of the place. It was built by some Civil War veteran who moved to Asheboro and made a mint with the factory in town, and poured most of it into making his house as grand as he could. But he never had kids, so when he died, nobody inherited. He created a trust to support it until a buyer came along, and the bank has been managing it ever since. But they couldn't manage to sell it — too big, too expensive, too far out of town, who knows what. So that's where things rested for quite a while. More than a century, actually."
"So what's that got to do with anything?"
Lisbeth helped herself to another pastry. "Well, last year a member of our town council proposed that the town buy it from the bank and turn it into something useful. She was really enthusiastic, not to mention persuasive, so she sold the rest of the council on the idea. The bank was happy to go along with it to get it off their books, so they expedited the paperwork and set a really reasonable price on it, and the town bought the place outright. Which used up whatever surplus money we had. If it's used for any commercial purpose, the town will get some of that back, in taxes, but right now our account is just about empty, so we can't help the businesses in town."
"Ambitious," I said, nodding, "but not a bad idea, if they can turn the place around. Which of course does not solve your immediate problem."
"It gets worse," Lisbeth said. "Turns out that board member had her own ideas for what to do with it, but when she laid them out to the board, after the purchase had been voted on by the town and the title had been transferred, they pitched a fit and voted her idea down. She's royally pissed off. But nobody's got a better idea."
"Buyer's remorse, probably. And that's where you think I come in?"
Lisbeth nodded. "Yes. You're in the hotel business. You know how to run things. You know how to fix things up and make people want to visit them, like you said. We thought maybe you could come spend a little time in Asheboro and maybe come up with some new ideas?" Lisbeth looked at me like an eager puppy.
Obviously if the town had no money, there wouldn't be anything like a consulting fee in it for me. Did I really want to bail out a place I had deliberately left behind? Could I even do it? From Lisbeth's very brief description of the issues, nobody had any money to throw at the problem — and it was pretty clear that it would take money. And nobody had a clue which way to go. As I remembered the town, there really wasn't much there, and no way to dress it up — and that had been before this storm had swept through. I had to admit I had barely seen the Barton mansion, because it was surrounded by a substantial piece of property that kept it invisible from the roads. But if in fact it had been sitting more or less empty for decades, there had to be some major problems with it, didn't there? Even if it was gorgeous, could it be brought back?
"Say something. Please?" Lisbeth begged. "We're at the end of our rope, and you're our last resort. I wouldn't have come to see you if there was any other way out of this mess."
I thought about it for a moment. While I could see plenty of pitfalls, this project in Asheboro sounded like a real challenge. If I looked around and saw there was no hope for the town, I could tell them as much and walk away. Couldn't I? What the heck — why not?
"All right. But I have to see what's going on — what kind of damage the town has suffered, and what kind of shape that Barton place is in. Maybe talk to some of your town council. Will people be around if I come down this weekend?"
Lisbeth looked like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. "Of course! I'll make sure they are." She grabbed another pastry and ate half of it in a bite, beaming all the while. "We'll set up a meeting for you."
"Don't get too worked up about it, Lisbeth — I'm not promising anything. But I'll look things over and tell you what I think can be done. Or if it's hopeless."
"That's all I can ask. Thank you, Katie. You're a lifesaver."
"Don't say that until after I've looked at things." I glanced at my watch. "Look, I've got a meeting at two and a foot-high stack of paperwork on my desk. But how about I drive over on Saturday and you can show me around and connect me with the people I need to talk to?"
"Perfect. Thank you so, so much, Katie!"
"I go by Kate, mostly, these days."
"Oh, right, of course. But I'll always remember you as Katie."
I wondered just what I had let myself in for. Bailing out my old hometown? Yeah, right. But it was worth taking a look, if only to help an old friend. I hoped.CHAPTER 2
At the end of the day I headed back to my condo on the fringes of the city, and I found a message from my boss, George, on my answering machine. That was odd, since I'd been in the office all day except for my lunch with Lisbeth, and I was pretty sure he'd been somewhere in the hotel as well. In the message he asked to meet me early the next morning when I came in, but didn't leave any explanation. George and I got along well so I hoped it might be good news. I'd have to wait and see.
The next morning I was in my office at Oriole Suites early, in advance of the meeting with my boss. I still had no idea what it was about: as far as I knew, everything was going smoothly, and our stats looked good. A few minutes ahead of schedule I presented myself to George's executive assistant, who said quickly, "He's expecting you. Go on in." Then she looked away.
"Good morning, George," I greeted him as I walked in. "Is this about the refurbishment of the penthouse?"
"Sit, please, Kate," he said, his expression somber. He sat back in his chair and steepled his hands. "We've worked together for some time now, so I'll get right to the point: this hotel has been bought out by a Japanese conglomerate, one that owns quite a few hotels in multiple countries. As a business acquisition, it makes a lot of sense."
I hadn't seen that coming. I felt gut-punched. "And?"
"They want to bring in their own management team to run the hotel. They've decided that I'd be redundant, so I've been let go."
"Oh, George, I'm so sorry to hear that. You've done a great job here." I knew that for a fact: the hotel was running like a well-oiled machine, and bookings and profits had been up for the past two years. Which was probably why it had been a tempting target for a buyer. I sat back and waited for the other shoe to drop, because I was pretty sure there had to be one.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Murder at the Mansion"
Copyright © 2018 Sheila Connolly.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A great debut from a long time favorite author. Returning to Asheford, her old hometown, wasn't really on Kate's radar until she gets a call from an old high school friend named Lisbeth. The town is struggling, and she is looking for a fresh set of eyes for the town could possibly do with the Barton mansion. Town member Cordelia has grand plans, the scheme seems to big for most of the council. Fate intervenes and Kate suddenly has plenty of time to check out Asheford. Tentative plans for a Victorian style redo of the main downtown area, coupled with an in at the mansion begins to seem like a realistic plan, until Cordelia is found dead. Amateur sleuth wasn't in her plans, but Kate does a solid job at feeding leads to the cops and working with an on site historian to find out what really happened.
Loved this first book in the series. Will eagerly await the next book. In the meantime, I will go and read earlier books by this author. What fun!
Katherine Hamilton is the manager of an upscale hotel in Baltimore, that is until she finds out that it has been bought out and they are bringing in their own management team. Then a high school friend, Lisbeth, comes to visit her, begging her to return to her hometown of Asheboro, MD to help the town solve their finance issues. The town had bought an old mansion, was basically broke now, and Lisbeth just knew that Kate would figure out the best way to use that mansion and save the town. Katherine falls in love with the Civil War Mansion and can see a destination Victorian village in its future. While she was exploring the Mansion, the body of her high school nemesis, Cordelia Walker, is found just outside with her head bashed in. Katherine must find the answer to the death before the plan to change the town and the mansion can move forward. She moves into the local B&B in town in order to be on site to do her research on the mansion and Henry Barton. I have enjoyed everything thing I have by Sheila Connolly and the first book of the Victoria Village Mysteries was another winner. The characters are likeable and the setting fits the plot nicely. I can feel the desperation in the small town and the council members. The mystery was nicely paced and there were plenty of suspects and small town gossipy clues to keep me interested. I like the fact that the old house had some mystery thrown into the mix as well. I definitely like Katherine as the protagonist. She is an intelligent and driven woman, yet not afraid to ask for help when needed. Josh, the caretaker of the mansion as well as college professor on sabatical, is perfect as Katherine's partner in crime and romantic interest, although the romance came at the end, setting up a relationship for the next book in the series. Kate and Lisbeth re-started their friendship without any problems. Lisbeth would be an awesome friend to have, she is sweet, knows how to keep a secret and can be a great sidekick when called upon. I didn't guess the culprit involved in the side mystery and I didn't figure out who the killer was until the author started sprinkling clues closer to the end of the story. When the killer was taken in and Kate's museum friend was brought in to authenticate any pieces from the house, the book sets up the story line for the next mystery. Kate will be back in Asheboro to carry out her plans with the help of the Museum and their donors. I will definitely be reading more of this series. I am anxious to read what happens next. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book to read. All the opinions/ideas shared are my own.
Great reading this book just loved it!
Murder at the Mansion by Sheila Connolly is the beginning of A Victorian Village Mystery series. Katherine “Kate” Hamilton left her home of Asheboro, Maryland after high school. Katie currently works at Oriole Suites Hotel in Baltimore and is surprised when she gets a call from Lisbeth Scott, her best friend in high school. A storm went through Asheboro a few weeks ago causing severe damage and many of the residents do not have insurance to cover repairs. The town is on the verge of going under and they want Kate’s assistance. The town council had been convinced to buy the Old Barton home (a beautiful Victorian mansion) by Cordelia Walker. It turns out she had personal motivations for the venture and her plan would not benefit Asheboro. They are hoping Kate can use her skills to come up with a viable and inexpensive plan for to resurrect the town. Kate tours the Barton mansion and meets the caretaker, Josh Wainwright. She is surprised to see it in such beautiful condition. It is like stepping back in time to the Victorian era, and Kate begins to formulate a plan. As Kate exits the mansion with Josh, she finds her high school nemesis, Cordelia Walker dead on the front steps. Detective Reynolds of the Maryland State Police Criminal Division is in charge of the case, but he could use someone local to be his eyes and ears. Since the Oriole was bought out, Kate has the time to aid the town and Detective Reynolds. While in Asheboro working on her plan for the town and researching the Barton family, Kate delves into Cordelia’s life looking for clues. What had Cordelia uncovered that got her killed? Join Kate on her inaugural mystery in Murder at the Mansion. Murder at the Mansion contains good writing and with varying pacing. The story starts out strong as we are introduced to Kate. I like the main character as she is smart, likeable, hardworking, and willing to help her hometown. Kate does need to work on her self-confidence (don’t we all). I like the books concept of a struggling small town with a beautiful Victorian home. If something is not done to draw in tourists, Asheboro will die quickly. The Barton mansion sounds gorgeous. I just loved the descriptions of the Victorian masterpiece (I would love to own this home). I like the vision Kate came up with for the town and I am looking forward to seeing it come to fruition in future books in this series. The mystery has layers to it which are revealed as Kate searches for clues and I like that the mystery ties into the Barton mansion. I wish, though, that it had been harder to pinpoint the guilty party. I found the pace to vary throughout the story and it was especially slow in the middle. There was too much repetition and speculation. I feel that the book needed further editing. If Murder at the Mansion had been tightened up, it would have been a much better cozy mystery. I was curious as to why Kate did not look up information online. She kept wanting details on the original owner of the Barton home, but she did not do the obvious. There is mild foul language in the book (and it is not needed). Overall, I thought Murder at the Mansion was an intriguing first novel in A Victorian Village Mystery series. I am giving Murder at the Mansion 3 out of 5 stars. I am curious to see what happens next as Kate works to save Asheboro.
MURDER AT THE MANSION, the first book in the Victorian Village Mystery series, is just an okay read for me, but the series has a lot of potential. After leaving town fifteen years ago, Kate returns to her hometown at the behest of her high school best friend. There she finds the small town on the verge of bankruptcy, and the city council hopes that Kate has ideas to revitalize the town. Unfortunately, Kate’s nemesis Cordy is murdered, and Kate finds herself both investigating the history of the Barton House and looking for Cordy’s murderer. The murder mystery within these pages is secondary to revitalizing the town, almost like it was thrown in to make the book a cozy mystery. No one cares that Cordy was murdered, and I identified the killer very early on. The historical aspect of the book is what saved it for me. I found it interesting. Fully acknowledging that this is the first book in the series, the characters are lacking in depth. I would like to get to know Josh better, and I think it is great that one of the characters from one of Connolly’s other series has a cameo. Unfortunately, Kate is hard to warm up to. She is a bit of a snob, and I just hate the condescension and sarcasm of her inner opinions of her “best” friend Lisbeth. I am willing to give the next book in the Victorian Village Series a chance, hoping that there will be vast improvements to the characters and the murder mystery is the focus. I received and ARC of this title from the publisher through NetGalley and voluntarily shared my thoughts here.
Having just received the news that the hotel she was running has been purchased by a large conglomerate and they wish to install their own personnel, Kate finds herself able to consider a proposal brought to her by her high school best friend. Her home town of Asheford, Maryland is slowly dying. The city council has purchased the large Victorian mansion once owned by Henry Barton. The same mansion where Kate was humiliated by the clique queen and high school nemesis, Cordelia. Now Cordy wants to take over the mansion and turn it into a high chrome, flashy hotel by ripping out the historical charm that has been painfully maintained with funds left by Barton. As Kate is finishing up her tour of the mansion with the caretaker, they find the troublesome Cordelia, dead on the front steps. Can Kate figure out what Cordelia was up to and why she was so interested in the mansion? Books with storylines that deal with historical treasures hidden in basements and attics are a big draw to me. Kate’s story moves along though clues and ideas do not come easy. Connolly does not give Kate a smooth and effortless path to figure things out. She stumbles and trips like a ‘regular’ person would. Fans of Connolly’s Museum Mysteries will be happy to see Nell Pratt featured. My one whine is against reading this book on an e-reader. It abruptly ended. I was so engrossed in the story that when the last line came up and I turned the page, I was agog that the book had ended. I was not prepared. Needless to say, that last line leaves it wide open for more installments. I will be waiting patiently. I wish to thank the generosity of the publisher and NetGalley for providing an Advanced Reader’s Copy for my honest review.
I really enjoyed this series debut by established author Sheila Connolly. It combines mystery, history, a homecoming, new beginnings, and a touch of romance. The main characters were likable, and I look forward to getting to know them better in future books. The plot moved at a good pace, without any boring, unnecessary lulls or rushed explanations. There were actually three mysteries within this book, including murder, theft, and the long-dead owner of a Victorian mansion, about whom little is known. At first I thought the book ended kind of abruptly, but then I realized one of the main storylines would be continued in the second book, and maybe beyond. Though this book hasn't officially been released yet, I can't wait for the second book, and learn more about Kate, Josh, Lisbeth, and their small town of Asheboro, Maryland! I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
It’s been a number of years since I have read a mystery by Sheila Connolly (I read the Orchard mystery series.) I wasn’t sure how she had progressed as an author in the intervening years but was happy to find that she has grown into her craft. Considering that those earlier books were excellent, it meant that her plot lines and characters have gotten even better than before. In the debut to this series, Kathleen Hamilton is brought back home again to help save the old hometown. She isn’t the type to look backward but is drawn to both the plight of the town and to the actual project involved. But, this is a murder mystery and so a body is stumbled upon (almost literally) and thus begins the work of an accidental sleuth. Turns out that Katherine has to help solve the crime before she can deal with the crisis. That the victim was someone who got on every one’s last nerve meant the suspect list was long and deep. It will be interesting to see where this series is going with regards to the town. So many small towns in the US are lost as people move out and to bigger cities. Even though fictional, I look forward to reading about the steps that one can take to stop and reverse the process. I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
Murder at the Mansion by Sheila Connolly is the debut novel for her Victorian Village series. It was an intriguing beginning and the setting, although in a small town, was unique. I liked Katherine and her down-to-earth attitude. She doesn't hesitate to be truthful with both the town board members and the police. I also liked that Ms. Connolly did not just the "romance triangle" trope as I find that to be an unnecessary addition to most cozy mystery stories. The plot is smoothly paced with plenty of suspects regarding the murder of the town "mean girl". I also enjoyed the history that was introduced into this book by Ms. Connolly regarding the Civil War veteran, Henry Barton. I'm intrigued to know about this mystery man who lived in the beautiful mansion on the edge of town. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Minotaur Books via NetGalley. All of the above opinions are my own.
Murder At The Mansion is the first book in the Victorian Village Mystery series. I’ve read all of Connolly’s mystery series and was so excited to hear that she had a new series in print. I’m familiar with the general area of this series, having lived there for 20 years and this made it even more enjoyable for me. Kate has been contacted by Lisbeth, a high school friend, asking her to help save the city of Asheboro. Cordelia Walker was able to convince her fellow town council members to buy the Henry Barton mansion on the outside of town and she had plans to convert it into a B&B. The town council didn’t particularly like her plan and then her financing went away and with a dwindling tax base Asheboro they are looking for some way to save the town and the mansion. Kate has been asked to visit Asheboro and come up with a plan to save the town. Barton was childless when he died and had created a trust for the city to use for upkeep on the property until a buyer could be found, but finding a buyer proved fruitless. When Kate arrives to access the property she finds that finds that the mansion is still furnished with the same furniture that had been there when Barton passed. On her first visit to the Barton House, Kate meets the current caretaker, Joshua Wainwright. Wainwright is on a sabbatical to write a book on post-war Civil War. She feels that Wainwright may be a great source of information about the time period to help her come up with a plan for Asheboro. On another visit, Kate finds the lifeless body of Cordelia on the front porch. Although, initially on the list of suspects, Kate gets cleared and will help the police with the investigation. Kate soon learns from Wainwright that Cordelia has been made numerous visits, many after her plan for the mansion was dismissed, to the mansion. Then when a letter is found that shows Barton might be related to Clara Barton. Something like this could be cause for somebody wanting Cordelia out of the picture. In addition, Kate envisions the downtown being turned into a Victorian village and the mansion being turned into a B&B, thereby drawing more visitors to the community. But Kate needs to find something that will show historical significance to be able to get financing for her plan for Asheboro. Another well-plotted and told story from Connolly. She skillfully weaves together the historical part with the current to provide an exciting read. I am looking forward to the next book in the series to see how her plan is coming and to learn more about the residents of the community.
What a wonderful new series by Sheila Connolly. Kate works in the hospitality industry and has been at her current job for the past five years. When her best friend from high school, whom she hasn't spoken to in a while, calls her up and asks her to meet Kate wonders what she might want. The town Kate grew up in and left so many years ago is need of some help. You see they made an investment in a local house but after purchasing said house the town doesn't have the money to do much else. If they don't figure out something to bring back life to their dying town no one knows exactly what will happen. Kate agrees to come and see if she can come up with some ideas and learns that her nemesis from high school offered up a plan but it got shot down quickly because it would only be beneficial to her and not the town. While looking at the house that the town bought and trying to come up with some ideas Kate stumbles over the body of Cordelia, her high school nemesis. Follow along as Kate tries to come up with a valid plan to help the town and also looks for the killer. You see she never got any closure from what Cordelia did to her in high school and hopes finding her killer will help in some way. This was a fantastic new read that was filled with wonderful characters, a charming town, and wonderful bits of history. I can't wait to see what becomes of the town and Kate's ideas and hope that her budding romance turns into more.