Title: Ten Lords A-Leaping (Father Christmas Mystery #3)
Author: C. C. Benison
Read by: Steve West and Jean Gilpin
Audio published: December 3, 2013 by Random House Audio
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Although Father Tom Christmas serves his little church in enchanting Thornford Regis with a glad and faithful heart, he never expects to find himself skydiving to raise money for it. Nor, safely back on the ground, to see two of the other divers leap from the plane, then tangle in a midair punch-up and begin falling to the earth.
To say that there is tension between the men in question—Oliver, the 7th Marquess of Morborne, and his brother-in-law Hector, the 10th Earl of Fairhaven—would be an understatement. But the trouble among this ancient landed family really began a generation ago, when a marquess divorced his first spouse to marry his brother’s wife, fathering in his two marriages a viper’s nest of arrogant young aristocrats. Now they have all turned up for the show to witness this shocking event in the sky.
Thankfully the men land safely, but death will not be slighted. Much to Father Tom’s dismay, he later discovers Lord Morborne lying deceased on castle grounds. Rumors of bigamy, art forgeries, and upstairs/downstairs intrigue fly. So do whispers of unvicarly behavior between Tom and Oliver’s beautiful half-sister, Lady Lucinda. In fact, the vicar may be headed for a very hard landing of his own.
Apparently the print version of Ten Lords A-Leaping comes in at just over 500 pages. It doesn’t seem like that big a story. The audio didn’t drag, and to be honest I guess I just don’t expect cozy, gimmick driven mysteries to be that long.
Tom is stuck at the castle due to an ankle injury and, as luck would have it, someone ends up dead. This is a complicated family and several of them have reasons to want Oliver dead. There are also the servants who may have their own motives. I’m not sure that following the clues would necessarily have gotten me to the killer, but I’m not very good at guessing whodunnit in general. I did find the grand denouement a little confusing. I’m not sure if it was because I was listening and not reading it in print, but Tom’s explanation of how it all worked out got me a little lost. If it had been print, I might have gone back to re-read it, but I didn’t care enough to listen to it over.
It’s one of the good English country manor mysteries, fun while you’re listening. The problem with reviewing some books, like this one, is there’s nothing really outstanding, good or bad. It’s an enjoyable diversion, but not a must-read. I will say I like Father Tom. He’s a good guy, a caring father and I like how he’s not preachy but his faith and the responsibilities of his position in the church show through in his actions. He’s not perfect, far from it, as his time with Lucinda shows, but he’s trying.
There are two readers, West does the main story and Gilpin reads the letters written by Tom’s housekeeper to, I believe, her mother. It’s interesting to see the story from both points of view I think the change in readers enhances the set-up. Both do a good job.