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Murder by Syllabub (Ellen McKenzie mysteries Book 5) Kindle Edition
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Logline: --- Investigation of a ghostly presence in an old plantation leads to murder and revelation of long buried secrets.
Protagonist/Narrator: Ellen McKenzie Dunham, a real estate agent in the small Central California town of Santa Louisa. She’s married to the police chief, Dan Dunham.
Ellen’s Aunt Mary announces plans for a trip to Virginia. Her longtime friend Elizabeth thinks she has a ghost at the Smithwood plantation inherited from her late husband, and the ghost is trying to kill her. Ellen doesn’t trust Aunt Mary to make the trip alone so they both head for Williamsburg.
At their first glimpse of Smithwood on a moonlit night it looks lovely and peaceful. Quoting:
"Huge old trees lined both sides of the gravel road, bending gracefully toward each other, creating a tunnel of fresh spring leaves. On one side, shadowy animals stood behind white fences, silently watching us pass and then taking off to race us to the house. Horses. White, almost silver in the moonlight. A row of small houses was tucked behind the trees on the other side of the road."
This sets up an introduction to three main characters. Elizabeth, who owns the plantation, wants to turn the big house into a school for history teachers, returning the place to the 18th century. Teachers will live that lifestyle for a week. Cora Lee, Elizabeth’s sister-in-law, was disinherited but still lives at Smithwood.
Noah, a sergeant in the Williamsburg Police Department, lives in a former slave cabin and keeps an eye on the plantation and its two elderly inhabitants. He owns the cream-colored horses – known as American Creams – and works with Colonial Williamsburg to keep the breed alive.
The plantation is three separate houses linked by brick passageways. Elizabeth and Cora Lee live in the west wing because the main house held unhappy memories for Elizabeth’s late husband. The east wing, a guest wing, is also uninhabited.
The author sets all this up in the first 20-plus pages and the mystery takes off when the four women spot a flicker of light in the main house. Counting on safety in numbers, one 40-ish real estate agent and three little old ladies troop over to investigate and find a body in the old dining room.
"Oh, dear God in heaven." Aunt Mary says. "It's George Washington."
It's not, of course; it's a man dressed as George Washington, and Elizabeth and Cora Lee know him because he's a shirt-tail relative. There will be many twists and turns before this tale of greed, vengeance and family pride plays out in a hair-raising denouement.
The book’s plus is a look at Colonial Williamsburg when Barbara, Aunt Mary and Cora Lee visit the Historic District.
I loved the history and lore of behind-the-scenes Williamsburg. This was a book thoroughly enjoyed for it's engaging characters and twists and turns to a surprising finale. Well done and appreciated Ms Delaney.
I didn’t like this book quite as much as I did the previous entry in this series, and I’m not sure why. I think maybe because Ellen and Aunt Mary are away from their home base and the interesting supporting characters in the previous book aren’t in this one. There was a lot of interesting historical information regarding colonial life, Williamsburg, plantation living, slavery and antiques, but the interaction between the Virginia characters, with the exception of a few just didn’t grab me. There were a couple I wanted to smack. Hard.
For me, this was a 3.5 star book. I liked it enough to want to see how it turned out, because I like Ellen so much, but the story didn’t keep me glued to the page. I read book four and then this one, so I’m a little out of the loop on what happened in books 1-3, but I’ll be rectifying that soon.