Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Bellfield Hall by Anna Dean

Mysterious Reviews: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Crime Novel Reviews, edited by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

A Dido Kent Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-56294-2 (0312562942)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-56294-6 (9780312562946)
Publication Date: February 2010
List Price: $23.99

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Bellfield Hall, or The Observations of Miss Dido Kent by Anna Dean
Buy Bellfield Hall, or The Observations of Miss Dido Kent by Anna Dean

Review: Richard Montague mysteriously disappears from his own engagement ball, leaving a note for his fiancée, Catherine, that he is ruined and she should distance herself from him. Catherine summons her clever and intelligent aunt, Miss Dido Kent, to Bellfield Hall to discover what has happened to Richard. Loyal and in love, Catherine refuses to break off the engagement, at least until she understands her fiancée’s reasons. Upon arrival, Dido discovers there are actually two mysteries as a dead body has turned up in the garden shrubbery. She also plans to find out if the two incidents are related. With her intelligence, keen mind and ability to ferret out details from servants, villagers and the other guests at Bellfield Hall alike, Dido Kent will soon become a favorite sleuth.

The action takes place in 1805, and Anna Dean’s writing has an old-fashioned flair to match. The author doesn’t stint on characters either. There’s Tom Lomax who is courting two wealthy sisters at the same time; the card-obsessed lady of the manor; and a colonel who thinks of marrying one of the sisters but is always looking for Jack the servant as well. And they all have something to hide.

Bellfield Hall, the first in a series, is a methodical mystery, with some of the clues coming from Dido’s letters to her sister and the rest from action on the estate. Few of the wealthy visitors take notice of the maiden aunt who is able to pluck information from them with her seemingly innocent questions. Dean has clearly done her research and deposits her readers neatly on the English country estate whether it’s touring a portrait gallery, scoping out gravel near the summerhouse or taking a brisk walk into the village. She paces the story beautifully giving enough clues to temper the slower pace. This slower pace also gives time for the reader to think out clues alongside Dido and have time to appreciate the Dean’s language and her detail for this Austin-esque era. Some mysteries move so quickly, one doesn’t have time to appreciate what one is reading, and that’s not the case here. Fans of cozy mysteries in general and historical mysteries will both find Anna Dean’s book a delight.

Special thanks to Katherine Petersen for contributing her review of Bellfield Hall, or The Observations of Miss Dido Kent.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Katherine Petersen — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): 1805. An engagement party is taking place for Mr Richard Montague, son of wealthy landowner Sir Edgar Montague, and his fiancee Catherine. During a dance with his beloved, a strange thing happens: a man appears at Richard's shoulder and appears to communicate something to him without saying a word. Instantly breaking off the engagement, he rushes off to speak to his father, never to be seen again. Distraught with worry, Catherine sends for her spinster aunt, Miss Dido Kent, who has a penchant for solving mysteries. Catherine pleads with her to find her fiance and to discover the truth behind his disappearance. It's going to take a lot of logical thinking to untangle the complex threads of this multi-layered mystery, and Miss Dido Kent is just the woman to do it.

Originally published in the UK as A Moment of Silence.

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