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The Sculthorpe Murder by Karen Charlton

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The Sculthorpe Murder by Karen Charlton The Sculthorpe Murder by Karen Charlton
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Detective Lavender Mysteries #3
Published by Brilliance Audio on August 30, 2016
Source: Purchased
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 37 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

Northamptonshire, 1810: As a new canal network snakes across the landscape, a vicious mob stakes its claim to the county. Every local constable is out on the hunt for the ruthless Panther Gang. When an elderly man is robbed and murdered in sleepy Middleton, the beleaguered magistrates send for help from London’s Bow Street Police Office.

Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Ned Woods soon discover there’s more to William Sculthorpe’s demise than meets the eye. Mystery surrounds the old man and his family, and the stench of revenge hangs heavy in the air. Are the Panther Gang really responsible or is something more sinister afoot? As Lavender delves further into long-hidden secrets, Woods has demons of his own to contend with: ghosts from his past that stalk him through the investigation.

Uncovering decades of simmering hatred and deceit, Lavender and Woods must use all their wit and cunning to solve this evil crime.

I enjoyed The Sculthorpe Murder so much more than #2 in the series. Lavender and Woods are sent out of London to Northamptonshire to investigate the killing of an elderly man, presumably by a gang that has been terrorizing the area. I like that the trip takes Lavender away from his love interest. I really can only stand them as a couple for short periods of time.

The plot was well-done with a good array of suspects and clues. I like that Lavender doesn’t take things for granted and as an outsider can be more suspicious of certain people than the locals are.

Wood gets a lot of screen time in this one, which I appreciated. He’s a good, kind man and I liked his interactions with                                           . (Don’t want to give anything away.) He tends to put people, including children at ease. Lavender, on the other hand, tends to make people a bit uncomfortable. He’s the thinker where Woods is the talker. Together they make a good team.

The secondary characters are all a bit shady, actually. Most, if not all, have their secrets, some more criminal than others. I do think the ending was appropriate, although perhaps not in the typical, wrap it up, punish the guilty way.

I listened to the audio and the narrator does a good job with the varied characters. He disappears into the story, which is what I’m looking for.

The Sculthorpe Murder is a solid historical mystery. It feels like the details are well done – whether they actually are or not I can’t judge, I’m assuming they are. In this one, I especially found the conflict between the Catholics and Church of England interesting. I’m not a history buff, I admit, but I do enjoy it when bits are thrown into the stories I’m reading. Once in a while, they even make me want to learn more about the subject.

I’m actually looking forward to the next in the series, although I hope it doesn’t get taken over by Lavender’s marriage.

About Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and is also the author of a nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle.’ She has published short stories and numerous articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines. An English graduate and ex-teacher, Karen has led writing workshops and has spoken at a series of literary events across the North of England, where she lives. Karen now writes full-time.

A stalwart of the village pub quiz and a member of a winning team on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’, Karen also enjoys the theatre, and she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for her Murder Mystery Weekends.

The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton

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The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton The Sans Pareil Mystery by Karen Charlton
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Detective Lavender Mysteries #2
Published by Brilliance Audio on October 6, 2015
Source: Purchased
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 10 hrs 15 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

On a cold February night in Regency London, a dark curtain falls on the Sans Pareil Theatre following the death of April Clare, a promising young actress, whose body is found in mysterious circumstances.

Detective Stephen Lavender and his dependable deputy, Constable Woods, quickly discover that nothing is quite as it seems. As successive mysteries unfold, they soon realise that it is not only the actors from the Sans Pareil who are playing a part.

With the Napoleonic War looming dangerously across the Channel, this is a time of suspicion and treachery. Following the clues from the seedy back streets of Covent Garden up through the echelons of society, Lavender and Woods begin to fear that the case is much bigger than they’d dared imagine—and worse, that they are at risk of becoming mere players in a master criminal’s shadowy drama.

It will take all of Lavender’s skill and wit, and help from the beautiful Magdalena, to bring the mystery of the Sans Pareil Theatre to a dramatic conclusion in the final act.

There were several good things about The Sans Pareil Mystery. I enjoyed learning about the theater in London in 1810 and it is interesting to note that both the San Pareil Theater and the woman running it did actually exist. The mystery itself was okay, although the clues were not necessarily as noticeable as the big flashing arrows saying “this is s bad guy.” I like Lavender and Wood as a team, but Lavender seems older to me than young 30s, his attitudes and actions don’t necessarily fit. Or maybe the reader’s voice sounded older and that projected on to the main character? I had to remind myself that he was younger than I think. For the time period, it was also notable that women played central roles in the story, not just in the plot, but on the side-lines too. We meet women who have younger lovers, who support themselves and their household, who are brave, who are loyal, who are killers, who are willing to lie to save their own skins.

So, good mystery and a decent setting, London in the early 1800s is atmospheric and dirty, but a place and time that’s used extensively. I did like how Charlton used the Napoleonic Wars as an integral piece of the story and the conflict between Catholics and Anglicans was clear.

I didn’t like the love story between Lavender and Magdalena. I’m not against romance in a mystery, I just felt like those sexual tension scenes and off-screen sex were just not in keeping with the tone of the story. It felt like there was an asterisk beside those pieces that stated “see, I could write a romance if I wanted,” but it would be a melodramatic, slightly uncomfortable one. Maybe now that the relationship has settled a bit we can get back tot he mysteries. I hope in the next one, Lavender and Woods will head out of town, leave London and Magdalena for a while.

About Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and is also the author of a nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle.’ She has published short stories and numerous articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines. An English graduate and ex-teacher, Karen has led writing workshops and has spoken at a series of literary events across the North of England, where she lives. Karen now writes full-time.

A stalwart of the village pub quiz and a member of a winning team on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’, Karen also enjoys the theatre, and she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for her Murder Mystery Weekends.

The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton

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The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton
Narrator: Michael Page
Series: Detective Lavender Mysteries #1
Published by Brilliance Audio on June 9, 2015
Source: Purchased
Genres: Mystery
Length: 9 hrs 16 mins
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon or Audible
Add on Goodreads

Northumberland, November 1809: A menacing figure stalks women through Hareshaw Woods and a beautiful, young heiress disappears from her locked bedchamber at Linn Hagh.

The townsfolk cry 'witchcraft' and the local constabulary are baffled.
Fearing for her safety, Helen Carnaby's worried uncle sends out for help from Bow Street magistrates' court in London. Detective Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods now face their toughest and most dangerous case. The servants and the local gypsies won’t speak to them, Helen’s siblings are sly and uncooperative and the sullen local farmers are about to take the law into their own hands.

Isolated in this beautiful but remote community, Lavender and Woods find themselves trapped in the middle of a simmering feud and are alarmed to discover a sinister world of madness and violence lurking behind the heavy oak door of the ancient pele tower at Linn Hagh. Helen Carnaby's disappearance is to prove one of the most perplexing mysteries of Lavender's career.

Why did she flee on that wintry October night? How did she get out of her locked bed chamber? And where is she now?

I have a fondness for historical mysteries, so the setting of The Heiress of Linn Hagh caught my attention. It’s a gothic mystery, complete with the rundown manor home, a missing heiress, gypsies, a madwoman, a beautiful Spanish woman and family secrets.

The mystery itself is a little predictable, but I enjoyed seeing Lavender pull all the clues together. I don’t know that Lavender himself is particularly likeable – intelligent, dedicated, tenacious, but perhaps not likeable. He knows it though, and brings Woods along. Woods is more likely to be able to get the non-gentry locals to talk. They are a good pair, each with his own strengths and weaknesses. I wasn’t terribly fond of Lavender’s obsession with the Spanish widow though. She could have been a fascinating character, but Lavender’s lusting felt a bit forced. Woods may have been my favorite of the two. He’s more down-to-earth, friendlier, is a family man. He’s just a solid good guy who will have your back.

The actual plot was rambling and twisting, but in a good way, and I loved the period details. The secondary characters were a mixed lot. Some were well-drawn, like the servants  in the hall; and some were pretty one-dimensional, like the missing woman’s half-siblings, and the missing woman herself, who was almost too perfect.

I listened to the audio version and became absorbed in the story.  The narrator did a good job with all the characters and allowing the dark, rather creepy atmosphere of the book come through.

Good, solid mystery, but the setting stole the show for me. The tone fits the time period, too. It’s not a nail-biting thriller, it’s a slower moving story, with some violence but not enough to put off many readers. I will probably pick up the next in the series.

About Karen Charlton

Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and is also the author of a nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle.’ She has published short stories and numerous articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines. An English graduate and ex-teacher, Karen has led writing workshops and has spoken at a series of literary events across the North of England, where she lives. Karen now writes full-time.

A stalwart of the village pub quiz and a member of a winning team on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’, Karen also enjoys the theatre, and she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for her Murder Mystery Weekends.

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