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VINE VOICEon June 7, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It's England in 1924, after World War I. Laurence (Laurie) Bartram goes to Easton Deadall, an English village, to restore the village church. Laurence learns of a major mystery shortly upon his arrival; a little girl named Kitty Easton, then age five, was taken from her bed in 1911 and hasn't been found or heard from. Kitty would now be eighteen. Everyone assumes she must be dead, with the exception of her mother.

But there is even more mystery and drama in the Easton family. Many of the men of the village were killed in the Great War, leaving behind mostly women, children, and older men. Those who remain certainly don't have the staff they once did, nor do they have the people available to hire new staff. There are family secrets, an underground chapel one of the women used because her husband didn't approve of her Roman Catholic faith. Another woman's body is found dead in the chapel. Maggie, a 15-year-old girl of the staff goes missing at a fair, and the police aren't much help because of her age.

Readers who like mysteries will like this novel. There are many twists and turns; readers don't know who might have done what until the very end, whether Kitty is alive, or where Kitty and Maggie have been. The style and mood help one visualize a British estate of the times. The word choices are definitely British, particularly in the conversations. Speller often makes the weather gloomy, and the places and things she describes on the estate add to the somber mood. Readers feel as if they're in 1924 England.

There is a little harsh language, used for effect, among the men. After all, many of the men who survive have just seen war, and they will use such language. The bad language is not excessive, and most adult readers of mystery-thrillers expect some bad language, but enough to alert highly-sensitive readers. There is also one point where Bartram visits a brothel in an attempt to locate the two missing young women (Kitty and Maggie), with thorough descriptions of things there - again, not over-the-top for the genre, but not for overly-sensitive readers.

Considering what I have pointed out, I can give this novel a solid 4-star rating. If we had fractions, I would call it about a 4.5 to 4.75. I would be interested in other works by Speller.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A garden maze and a labyrinth beneath a church are obvious metaphors for long buried secrets that have plagued the members of the Easton household for many years and are now slowly coming to light. It is through the eyes of traumatized ex-military officer and amateur sleuth Laurence Bartram that author Elizabeth Speller explores the tumultuous terrain of the village of Easton Deadall where the shadows of the past continue to torment and threaten the residents of Easton Hall. It is through Bartram's distinctive perspective that readers view the war, the inhabitants and landscape of this small English village and the ultimate resolution to the mystery that has overshadowed the lives of so many for so long.

THE STRANGE FATE OF KITTY EASTON begins 1924, thirteen years after 5 year old Kitty Easton disappeared. WWI is over leaving in its wake the shattered reminents of men and women who are now attempting to bring some semblance of order back into their lives. Kitty's disappearance and fate are almost ancillary to the plight of the other characters depicted in this novel, from the ailing and distraught Lydia to archeologist Patrick to David the trusty chauffeur, all have skeletons in their respective closets The book is divided into Parts 1 and 2 with part one plodding along rather slowly as it lays down the foundation of the tale with in-depth attention to even the most finite details. Part 2 is where the real action begins and it is here that the reader is truly drawn into this tense and atmospheric, yet satisfyingly convoluted, tale.

Part historical fiction, part manor house mystery and part "journey you enter and move along to its end". . . THE STRANGE FATE OF KITTY EASTON provides a reflective lesson in how individual choices become the means by which life crystallizes loss. Overall rating: 2 ½ for part one, 4 ½ for part two = 3 ½ stars
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on April 29, 2014
Speller's first book, "The Return of Captain John Emmett," was magnificent, and so I was eager to read her second. But this one was disappointing. First of all, it is incredibly slow to get started. The first 170 or so of its 400 pages are just preamble at best, and, to me, not very interesting preamble at that. I would have put the book down if two friends who had read it hadn't encouraged me to persevere. Then, however, the pace quickens, and I rushed to the end, which, contrary to some reviewers' opinions, I liked. That said, the last two-thirds of the book is somewhat of a jumble. Speller tries to balance too many balls; subplots pile on one another and there is purely extraneous material (e.g. the momentum-killing pages that detail the first sexual encounter between the protagonist and his soon-to-be-wife). Did she think that the actual mystery of Kitty Easton was too slight to hold a book on its own? What she has written is so much more than the mystery that the title is actually a bit misleading. Rather, the novel is an essay on war, heroism, survival, family and the gulf between appearances and reality. It's a heady brew. With some tightening, Speller could have made it mesmerizing.
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VINE VOICEon December 7, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I loathe starting books mid-series, although from perusing some other reviews, it doesn't seem as though there is much overlap beyond a few of the characters in this sequel to The Return of Captain John Emmett. There are a few obvious references to its predecessor here, but there is no indication of anything vital connecting the two novels. When I first discovered that this is the second book in a series, I planned on going back and reading it, but now that I have finished this snail-paced historical mystery, I have no intention of doing so.

The initial premise of this story - a deteriorating manor is slowly starting to come back to life after an early tragedy of a missing five-year-old girl until more tragic circumstances call the past back to the present - sounds so much more intriguing than its execution. The slow pacing makes the book feel much longer than its four hundred pages and the frankly unlikable cast of characters offers readers not much to connect with here. The series title character, Laurence (or Laurie), makes an unconvincing sleuth (his motivation for his nosiness is never full explored), and the majority of the action takes place in the long sections of conversations - conversations which often feel a bit repetitive.

While Speller's research into her post-WWI time period is obviously impeccable, a lot of that historic detail is crammed into every nook and cranny of the story. There are a wide-range of details presented, which would have been more interesting with a greater balance of character development and plot progression. The book's pacing literally does not start picking up until after the 191st page! And unfortunately any momentum gained by the actions there quickly peters out into a most unsatisfying conclusion. With several references to Agatha Christie, it feels like Speller attempted to emulate that style and format of mystery. Unfortunately, with less-than-charming characters and a plot that does not follow logical progression and compounded with one of the most unsatisfying conclusions that that I have read in a long time, this novel is a far cry from Mrs. Christie's work. Needless to say, I don't plan on catching up or continuing on with this series.
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on November 22, 2012
This is not a real mystery. It is the psychological portrait of the Easton family as seen through the eyes of Laurence Bartram and told with flashbacks from other family members.

Kitty Easton is mentioned periodically but is NOT the focus of the book, although at the end we do find out what happened to her.

But rather the author has chosen to draw a psychological protrait of a disfunctional family who have been torn apart by WW1 and the death of the family heir in that war.Gradually we learn all the misery of the family and their emotional problems and ailments. They are trying to rebuild the family estate and create a memorial for the dead of the village. Bit by bit we learn that the glorious heir was really a syphilitic daredevil and drunkard who infected his wife and lead the whole regiment of villagers to their death -- the family is covering up all the facts about him which gradually emerges through conversations and flashbakcs.

The family and various servants, past and present, are all haunted by past events from which they have never emotionally recovered. They reach some sort of emotional resolution at the end. The books is about peeling back the layers of truth about this family, its relatives and its servants.

Frankly I did NOT like this book, I did not consider it a mystery, and was totally bored by it. The author does wite well, although she spends way too much time on trivial detail as way to create the atmosphere. She is one of thoise writer who believe in "telling" the reader rather than "showing" the reader. This makes the whole story a rather passive one.
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on June 19, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wonder if the author is somewhat to eager to have the book turned into a script. The book has too many conversations and too few narrations. It didn't change my life, but it filled my weekends.
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VINE VOICEon May 31, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The second addition to the Laurence Bartram Mystery series is a sure fire winner as Elizabeth Speller takes the reader on a trip to discover THE STRANGE FATE OF KITTY EASTON.
Easton Deadall is beautiful, but shadowed by the disappearence of Kitty Easton. Kitty was five years old when she went missing from her bed in the middle of the night. Her mother is attempting to restore the family home and create a maze that is rumor to have once existed on the grounds. She hires William Bolitho, a criple from the Great War to create the maze and a new window for an ancient church in honor of her husband who was killed in the war.
William asks his friend Laurence Bartram to join him on the estate to take a look at the floor of the church that has come to light when old tar is removed.
Bartram can not get the fate of Kitty from his mind and as a maid ends up missing in London while another woman is found murdered in a vault below the church floor his investigate bent takes over.
THE STRANGE FATE OF KITTY EASTON is a excellent companion to THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN JOHN EMMETT.
Nash Black, author of SANDPRINTS OF DEATH.
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VINE VOICEon June 17, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
There's a good story here. A five year old girl disappears out of her bed one night. Thirteen years later, everyone presumes she's dead, but her mother There's another disappearance under similar circumstances. A good story idea.

But it just takes so long to get going. Well over a hundred pages of everything but the story before the second missing child. There's a reference every now and then, that's all, and a whole lot of filler in between. The book just didn't draw me into it. I kept plodding along though.

Hugely unsatisfying.
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VINE VOICEon June 19, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I didn't realize when I was offered this book that it was a sequel to THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN JOHN EMMETT, but luckily I had that book in my to-be-read pile and was able to preface my reading of EASTON with the introduction of the character of Laurence Bartram in EMMETT.

This is a completely different book from EMMETT, which chiefly deals with repercussions from the first World War and the problems of shell-shocked soldiers. While the shadow of the war reflects in the fate of some of the characters involved, EASTON is more of a country-house mystery in which the couple Bartram befriended during his previous investigations, the Bolithos, are involved with the restoration of a manor church and construction of a labyrinth at the request of the estate's mistress, a fragile, troubled woman whose five-year-old child disappeared almost fifteen years earlier. The shadow of this loss has irretrievably ruined what family relations existed between the family siblings. Restoration of the church reveals long-buried family secrets, and then a young servant disappears in an eerie echo of vanished Kitty. I found this an enjoyable, nicely-written period piece which captures the atmosphere of a country village of the early 1920s, but if you like your mysteries fast-moving, this probably isn't the read for you. Also note a rather startling sexual scene near the end of the story; I understand why it's there, but it may seem rather out-of-place after the methodical classic mystery preceding it. Missing in this outing and missed is Bartram's friend Charles, who keeps pushing mystery books at him and previously helped him with the mystery of John Emmett.
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VINE VOICEon May 31, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Easton family is haunted -- by the death of its patriarch in World War I, and by the disappearance of his young daughter in 1911. The village of Easton Deadall -- surely the second word is a pun? -- is a shadow of its former self because almost all of its men were killed in the war. When Laurence Bartram arrives at the Easton estate in 1924 to discuss preserving the family church, he finds that the disappearance of 5-year-old Kitty Easton 13 years earlier is anything but forgotten. Although there has been no word of the child since then, her mother, Lydia Easton, is convinced she is still alive. If she is, she is the heir to the estate, which otherwise would fall to Julian, Lydia's eldest brother-in-law. Not all of the family are in agreement on how to handle the situation, and not all of them get along that well.

This is an intricate family drama that later involves another disappearance and a death. As he learns more about the family, Bartram becomes fascinated with Kitty's disappearance and is determined to find out what really happened to her.

I enjoyed the last half of the book but felt like I had to plow through about 150 pages before things really took off. The author spends too much time setting the scene, including the Eastons' relationships with each other and with Bartram, before the action gets going. The ending has a satisfying twist.
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