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on July 16, 2007
If, like Catherine Morland you realize that in England, one could rely on "the laws of the land, and the manners of the age. Murder was not tolerated...and neither poison nor sleeping potions to be procured like rhubarb, from every druggist," [Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey, Volume II, Chapter IX., Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1971 edition, p 161], you will be in for shock when you read the glorious country house crime novels of Raicho Raichev.
The minute you delve into Raichev's latest, THE DEATH OF CORINNE, you are thrilled by contrast: bizarre crimes and criminals set in the reassuring world of English landed society. With the entrance of visitors from the Continent, will the gentle shades of English verdure run to red?
Raichev's second novel in the Antonia and Hugh Payne Country House mysteries has the pedigree of the English thriller greats. The settings are handsomely drawn and the leading lady's understated manners do not conceal her exquisite intelligence. Antonia Darcy Payne is the mystery within the mystery.
We encounter Hugh and Antonia Payne at the tail end of their honeymoon. This they are spending at Chalfont Park, the home of Hugh's Aunt, Lady Grylls. The serene and romantic mood is altered by the announcement of the arrival of Lady Grylls's god-daughter, the fabled, wealthy and French chanteuse, Corinne Coreille. Will Corinne bring a retinue, her own hair dresser, a private jet...
...or death threats. "Somebody wants to kill her?"[12] asks Antonia? And wouldn't you know it, Corinne is seeking a safe haven from anonymous letters threatening her life. With a croquet lawn that's "terribly overgrown," [16] what better place to go to earth than shabby-chic Chalfont Park? However, given the nature of the other characters who live and murder on Raichev's pages, Corinne may have have chosen the wrong spot.
Could Corinne be bringing trouble with her? Here's a clue: As Hugh and Antonia ask Lady Grylls about Corinne, two photographs of the singer on the Chalfont's drawing room mantle [13] become central to byzantine plot.
And, here's another: There's an extraordinary scene in the dining car of a train speeding from Paris to London that is ten pages of past events told us through the stream of consciousness of a uniquely troubled character. This chapter is quite a little masterpiece all by itself. Possessed by vocal inner demons, the character presents as a stone around which the river of everyday life seems to flow. "Sticky...it's so hard to keep the line between past and present," [33] says the character. But that is what Raichev does so well.
While most of the people in Antonia's life get on with things and barely think twice about motives, Antonia is a deliciously reflective lady of the still-waters-run-deep variety. "Self-consciousness," said "Young" Jolyon Forsyte "is a handicap, you know...." [ John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga, Book II, In Chancery, Part I, Chapter VII, "The Colt and the Filly," New York: Scribner, [1920] 1998, p 395] Antonia Payne is the exception who proves the rule.
And regarding those who lack self-consciousness, "Young" Jolyon Forsyte said, "Never to see yourself as others see you, it's a wonderful preservative...." Which explains the substantial and enduring charm of Hugh Payne's "Aunt Nellie," relic of the late Lord Grylls and current chatelaine of Chalfont Park, the scene of much of the novel. Ravaged by time and socialism, the estate has been in the care of old retainers and her cigarette-stained hands for some ten years. Never fear, she's bearing up.
The passage of time has not dimmed Lady Grylls's ability to recall past incidents which do much more than delight. Raichev's drawing room touch is perfect as he peppers the pages with allusions to a marriage in Paris of "lethal gamblers" in the 1940s[46], a Kenya safari gone wrong in 1960,[102] and a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969.[41]
Be prepared to be tossed between that which seems normal and that which is sinister. Wonderfully complex and compelling, the book's only problem is that it has a last page.
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VINE VOICEon July 2, 2007
THE DEATH OF CORINNE is the second English country house mystery featuring amateur detective pair Antonia and her now-husband Major Payne, and I've waited eagerly for it. This sequel again leads the reader into labyrinths of cagey subterfuge. Author Raichev is a wily master at conjuring twists and turns as character associations dizzily unravel.

The plotting of this book assigns more of a supporting role to our sleuths than they enjoyed in THE HUNT FOR SONYA DUFRETTE. I had hoped this second installment would treat us to murder at the site of their matrimonial festivities or some such thing because I so enjoyed their fledgling courtship and hoped to see more of its progress. Ah well... we catch up with the newlyweds on "the last leg of their honeymoon at Chalfont Park," the home of the major's aunt, Lady Grylls, and within days they have another murder on their hands. The couple does find opportune moments -- as they snoop -- to banter. Yay!

The reader should be prepared for a quite a few chapters before the victim actually arrives at Chalfont Park. In Lady Grylls' "spacious drawing room," extensive conversation whirls concerning the title character. Her family history and gossip get aired, together with trademark witticisms and the name dropping SONYA so agilely introduced... although a few less names dropped in CORINNE would have suited me. Betwixt these chatty chapters runs an internal monologue of a batty mother-in-mourning who has set out on a journey of vengeance against famous crooner Corinne Coreille, and she (the mother) unfortunately grows tiresome.

Antonia, who now writes detective fiction full time instead of working as a librarian, opines amusingly and tellingly about certain conventions of the mystery genre toward the end of CORINNE. It is fun to hear her pooh-pooh the staid idea that police inspectors need to be accompanied by their sergeants. And she primly advises that the police don't enter her stories "till chapter twenty-five, say, or thereabouts." She also claims, "I never do any extensive research." Now where would she get such ideas about writing, I wonder?

SONYA had a more ideal structure and perhaps better-fleshed characters, but CORINNE delivers the goods as well as its predecessor with regard to the murder mystery itself and its solution.

A third Antonia/Major Payne novel is already entitled: ASSASSINS AT OSPREYS. According to the publisher's catalogue of new titles for July 2007 - January 2008, this book will feature darker, more threatening cover art. ASSASSINS sounds like another don't-miss title. But right now, dig into this entertaining, ingenious release: THE DEATH OF CORINNE.
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on December 15, 2008
The plot is carefully constructed and the characters well rounded, but to some extent the work seems confused as to whether it's a modern work or a classic who dunnit. I found it a little difficult to become engaged with the characters because just as I had settled into what seemed a period setting, there was the mention of something profoundly modern to upset the apple cart. The characters, especially Lady Grylis, exhibit the perkie dialogues of a 1920'2-1930's style mystery and in the manner house venue, but the modern references distract. The ending was, however, very clever, which makes the book an adequate first mystery, and I look forward to the author's other work.
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This second story in the adventures of Antonia Darcy and Hugh Payne finds the pair at the end of their honeymoon. They have married sometime between the end of the first novel,The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette, and the beginning of this story. The couple is spending some time with Major Payne's Aunt Nellie, Lady Grylls of Charlfont Park in Charlfont Parva. They discover that they are to be treated to the arrival of Lady Grylls' god-daughter Corinne Coreille the hugely famous French songstress. Corinne has reportedly been receiving death threats and wants to use Charlfont as a place to lay low until the danger passes.

Antonia and Hugh prove themselves to be very observant once again in figuring out what is actually going on with Corinne and her legal adviser. Except has this very talented author pulled a switch on the readers and the sleuth's turn out to have gotten it wrong? This marvelously convoluted tale has lots of twists and turns to keep mystery readers who want a nice challenge on our toes. I appreciate having an author give me a story that is solvable and yet difficult to solve at the same time. R. T. Raichev put in that one final twist which made me guess wrong, but at least it was my own fault. He didn't put in some incredibly implausible circumstance which could never have possibly happened. The mysteries of Antonia and Hugh Payne take place in the present, but have that comfortable feel of a true classic mystery novel.

When you decide to read this novel, pay close attention to the titles of the chapters. I always read the chapter titles if they are given and many times have a very hard time trying to figure out why the author bothered with them at all. That is definitely not the case here. I noticed that I recognized what the first title was so I went and looked down the list of chapters. Sure enough I recognized most of the 33 chapter titles. Those I didn't recognize I went searching for. In the end there were only two I couldn't pin down but that didn't matter because what happened in each of those chapters perfectly matched the titles. That was very, very clever and I enjoyed it immensely! In fact, this aspect of the novel was indicative of the little special hidden gems throughout this novel.

Very highly recommended for the reader who loves a well constructed mystery novel with enough clues given so that you have a fair chance to solve the question. This is an exceptional example of the amateur detective novel. As Antonia put it herself, when she writes her own mysteries she likes to leave the police out of it as long as possible. Is it any wonder that R. T. Raichev has followed that example in this story?
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HALL OF FAMEon December 25, 2007
The death of Corinne is a delightful return to the Golden Age mysteries of yore, featuring a delightful detective duo in their middle years.

In addition R T Raichev has reached into his bag of dazzling tricks and produced an incomparable mise en scene and a special treat for those obsessed as I with 60s and 70s French pop music, for the eponymous Corinne is a "chanteuse" of a certain age who has dominated the pop charts in France for decades. Even though she is only rarely seen in public, Corinne Coreille is a figure of cult legend as well as mass appeal, and Raichev appears to have had a ball creating little bits and pieces of her career out of such disparate figures as Francoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan, Edith Piaf, Vanessa Paradis, even Dietrich and Grabo. I turned on my IPod and played Jane Birkin's "Ex-fan des sixties" on repeat, and at top volume all the way through reading this caper, it was the perfect background music.

Antonia Darcy is back again, now married to the seductive Major Payne she met in Raichev's previous novel, THE HUNT FOR SONYA DUFRETTE. Even the chapyter titles seem designed to suffuse the reader with pleasure, as they quote from the titles of many Golden Age novelists and/or the films of Hitchcock, and each one delivers a charge of excitement. I was thoroughly engaged at the first hint of a threat to Corinne, and while all who know Agatha Christie's PERIL AT END HOUSE or A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED are always on guard when an attempted murder fails, R T Raichev has more aces to play than you or I have suits and shoes.

Perhaps the plot borrows a little from "Fedora," an episode of the late Tom Tyron's CROWNED HEADS, but even "Fedora" was sort of an extended salute to SUNSET BOULEVARD and the poInt is just because something is derived from something else doesn't mean it can't have its own flavor. Let's just say that CORINNE is sort of a Jacobean version of "Fedora's" Elizabethan uprtightness.

If you ask me Raichev is sort of like Agatha Christie; all the infuriating things that annoy one so much in Christie's last novels have here been corrected and the new kingdom she had hoped to usher in during her final period, is finally here. Events occur, but we don't know when; identities shift and blend like colors in a chromoscope, with raw bursts of kaleidoscopic surprise. It's an astounding feat, to have reinvented a whole genre.
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on April 4, 2012
Antonia and Hugh Payne - now a married couple - are staying with Hugh's Aunt Nellie (Lady Grylls). She is a magnificent elderly lady with a butler called Provost and another nephew called Peverel and a run-down country house called Chalfont Park. Corinne Coreille has asked to come and stay at Chalfont.

Corinne is an aging French Diva who also happens to be Lady Grylls' - goddaughter. She is escaping from death threats made by Eleanor Merchant whose son committed suicide while listening to Corinne singing. Corinne is also bringing with her a private detective called Andrew Jonson.

Antonia and Hugh are intrigued by the situation and it seems to them that there may be more going on than anyone has been told. This is a well written country house style mystery of the type which is traditionally set in the nineteen twenties or nineteen thirties. Here it has been transposed to the twenty first century and it works well. There are plenty of eccentric and mysterious characters including the sinister Maitre Maginot who seems to be controlling Corinne.

This is the second book in the author's Country House series of mysteries - the first one being The Hunt for Sonya Dufrette The characters are well drawn, the plot is intricate and there are plenty of suspects, clues and red herrings to keep the reader guessing. I like Hugh and Antonia as detectives - they work well together and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series. If you like your crime stories in the classic mould then give this author a try.
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on August 27, 2007
I enjoyed this second country house mystery by Raichev even more than the first. Besides the mystery itself, well-developed, it features a very moving human drama of mother and daughter. Raichev's dialogue is top notch as in the first book, this time with a particularly memorable character, Lady Grylls. I look forward to his third book.
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on March 5, 2013
book was a good read other than fact that title tells you what is going to happen............story line goes back and forth to previous times

still a good read, not gripping though
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