Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Ellen McKenzie Mystery Series #5
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 298
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.
Elizabeth is experiencing many strange, spooky things around her 18th century home. She is desperate for help, as nearly everyone in her vicinity seems to be involved in one way or another. To what extent and with what motives remains to be seen. So she turns to the one person she trusts: her old friend Mary, who comes to her rescue, together with her cousin Ellen McKenzie.
The cast of this mystery drama consist of several elderly women, Mildred, the housekeeper and her son Noah, who both have deep-rooted ties to the estate as well. And of course Ellen. Cora Lee, Elizabeth’s sister-in-law is quite a character – Ellen likens her to a rubric cube with its many sides, you never know which side is going to show up with her! A million questions rise up about the various unexplainable things that are going on in the old house. Slowly the bits and pieces of the history of the plantation are revealed. Ellen in particular is trying to make sense of it all. When a second even more shocking murder takes place, matters become even more serious.
This story is an old style detective where sleuthing by non professionals in the end solves the riddle. Detective McMann, responsible for the case is a very rude and impossible man. The characters are well-developed and I actually like obnoxious Cora Lee with all her sarcasm an off-setting statements she makes. Elizabeth plans to restore most of the estate of Smithwood back to the 18th century for teaching purposes. There are others, however, who would like to get their hands on the property for quite different purposes. Will they succeed? Who is willing to go as far as murder two people to reach their goal? What will become of the estate in the end?
As part of a series it is an easy stand alone. The historical part sounds authentic and is described in such a way that you can picture it in your mind. It doesn’t get overbearing, even with the obsessions of both Elizabeth and Hattie. To me it made the story actually more interesting. Lovers of good old-fashioned detective work will certainly enjoy this book!
Read an excerpt
Kathleen Delaney has written four previous Ellen McKenzie Real Estate mysteries, but has never before transported her characters out of California. A number of years ago she visited Colonial Williamsburg and fell in love. Long fascinated with our country’s history, especially the formation years, she knew she wanted to set a story there. Another trip with her brother and sister-in-law solidified the idea that had been rolling around in her head but she needed more information. A phone call to the nice people at Colonial Williamsburg provided her with appointments to visit the kitchen at the Payton Randolph house, where she got her first lesson in hearth cooking and a meeting with the people who manage the almost extinct animal breeds the foundation is working to preserve. A number of books purchased at the wonderful bookstore at the visitor’s center gave her the additional information she needed and the story that was to become Murder by Syllabub came into being. Kathleen lived most of her life in California but now resides in Georgia. She is close to many historical sites, which she has eagerly visited, not only as research for this book but because the east is rich in monuments to the history of our country. Luckily, her grandchildren are more than willing to accompany her on their tours of exploration.
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