- File Size: 3378 KB
- Print Length: 344 pages
- Publisher: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road (October 2, 2012)
- Publication Date: October 2, 2012
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0099I9XWU
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,136 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Digital List Price:||$9.99|
|Print List Price:||$13.99|
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The Family Vault (Sarah Kelling & Max Bittersohn Mysteries Series Book 1) Kindle Edition
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I'll begin by saying that I love the writings of Charlotte MacLeod. I've read all four of her series, not all of them, but many. Of these, the Sarah Kelling/Max Bittersohn series is by far my favorite. I've read them completely out of order though, and when THE FAMILY VAULT, the first book of the series, became available for $1.99 on Kindle, I jumped on it. Naturally, throughout the series MacLeod has filled in much of Sarah's background, but I was eager to read the beginning book that told the complete story.
When I do these small reviews, I normally try very hard not to say anything to spoil the read for anyone else. I'm not going to do that here, so if you haven't yet read the series, be warned that from here on out there are going to be spoilers. Perhaps big spoilers.
First, if this book had been by anyone else than MacLeod (and not on my Kindle), it would have hit the wall opposite me with a resounding THUNK! Because this was truthfully filled with horrible people. Sarah has a multitude of relations, they fairly pour out of the woodwork in every book in the series. Many of them are snobby and downright nasty, others are just . . . odd. Some are both. In this book we meet her first husband, Alexander, and his mother "Aunt" Caroline. Aunt Caroline is evil--there's no other way to put it. Selfish, cruel, narcissistic, controlling, and murderously evil. Alexander is described by Sarah as a kind and wonderful man, but anyone who does the things that he did is seriously sick. Their relationship is sick. Here is a man that cared for a child from the time she was a little girl, perhaps even as an infant (the book doesn't really say, but definitely as a small child), becoming her favorite Uncle. She has loved him all her life--then he marries her as a teenager (she is in mourning after Aunt Caroline murders her father, which, of course, she doesn't know)--for all the wrong reasons (one of which was to keep his mother from killing her). Knowing that his mother has committed multiple murders, has gone through one entire inheritance and is now spending the interest on Sarah's inheritance, and might well decide at any time to just go for the entire thing by ridding herself of the meddlesome Sarah, he desperately dances attendance on his mother despite the effect this neglect has on his marriage to Sarah, attempting to protect Sarah from his mother and to keep her from getting all of Sarah's inheritance. He has spent his entire life protecting his mother from the fate she deserves, even though that puts the woman he supposedly loves at risk. One could probably spend a great deal of time discussing the psychological ramifications of his actions, but I'll stick with seriously sick. And icky. When they sailed over the cliffside to their deaths, I thought it was an all too fitting way for the two of them to exit.
Still, this story had to be told, because it explains so much about Sarah, the way she acts and thinks, and the way the remainder of her life unfolds. Unfortunately, at least in the books I've read so far, she never gets over her love and hero worship of Alexander. Still, she does move on and grows and changes with the later books, as she finds her own voice and learns to trust her own judgment. There is no one who can plot a story out like MacLeod, and this book is tightly organized and totally surprising. I'm not sorry I read it, and it is an awfully good mystery, despite the ick factor. But perhaps that is just me anyway. I would recommend this book (with qualifications) and the entire series, as well as her other series to just about anyone.
The action begins when doddering old Great-Uncle Frederick Kelling has finally shuffled off his mortal coil. Even in death, he causes problems for the rest of his Boston Brahmin relatives by refusing to be buried next to his late wife. His will specifies that his body is to be interred in the historic family vault on Boston's Beacon Hill. Sarah, who is the lowest Kelling on the family totem pole, has been delegated to be present when the vault is opened, so it is she who discovers the skeleton of a long-disappeared burlesque dancer with rubies in her teeth, stashed in among the ancient Kelling coffins.
This mystery has more creative twists and turns than the rest of the series put together. There is also a touching love story as Sarah and Alexander, her much older husband (who is also her cousin--the Kellings intermarried as much as legally permissible in order to keep the money in the family) slowly begin to unravel the mystery of the murdered stripper, and in the process draw much closer to each other. It also has one of the most unusual villains--someone you will love to hiss and boo at--in the entire mystery genre.
When young Sarah is confronted time and again with the evil machinations of her closest friends and relatives, she puts on her mother's best black hand-me-down dress, and whips up another batch of cheese puffs. You just can't help loving her.
Top international reviews
Set in Boston, The Family Vault, introduces the character of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. Sarah comes from an old Boston family and lives in a huge old house with her much older husband Alexander, also a cousin, and his deaf and blind mother Caroline. Caroline is difficult and dominating and the old family retainer, Edith, frankly rude and disagreeable. Sarah feels she lives more as a child than a wife, with no control of her own money and a life which revolves around Caroline and her friend Leila, who is married to Alexander's friend Harry. When we meet Sarah she is doing one of the many family jobs - supervising the opening of an old family vault, long closed up, which a Great-Uncle wanted to be buried in. However, on opening the vault, a body is found in there - recognised by a bystander as a local exotic dancer, Ruby Redd, who vanished years ago.
Shocked by what she has found, Sarah begins to investigate what happened to Ruby so long ago. She is a resourceful and likeable heroine and when she is introduced to Max Bittersohn, a writer who wants to enlist her to do some artwork for him, she finds she begins to rely on his help. When long held family secrets are uncovered, Sarah finds herself in a great deal of danger and there is nobody else she can trust. In a way, this is very much an introductory novel, where we meet the characters and the stage is set for further books. There are quite a few in the series:
The Family Vault (1979)
The Withdrawing Room (1980)
The Palace Guard (1981)
The Bilbao Looking Glass (1983)
The Convivial Codfish (1984)
The Plain Old Man (1985)
The Recycled Citizen (1987)
The Silver Ghost (1987)
The Gladstone Bag (1989)
The Resurrection Man (1992)
The Odd Job (1995)
The Balloon Man (1998)
Sadly, I see that the second book, The Withdrawing Room, is not yet published on kindle. Hopefully, the publishers will release them all, as this is a great series and it is always nice to read the books in order. If you have never read this series before, then I hope you enjoy it. It will appeal to anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries and possibly authors such as Carolyn G. Hart or Katherine Hall Page.