Sunday, August 31, 2008

High Marks for Murder by Rebecca Kent aka Kate Kingsbury

High marks for this book, series, and author. Kingsbury is such a wonderful writer, she's right up there in ranks with Mary Stewart in my book. For three books/series, Kingsbury hasn't let me down, this series she's writing as Rebecca Kent. Her latest series takes place at the turn of the century in Bellehaven House with the headmistress Meredith Llewellyn.

It's Sunday and during the church service, Kathleen Duncan is absent, highly unusual for a woman who has her very own spot she covets for the service. But she's coveting a new spot outside on the grounds, dead. What appears to be an accident with a branch turns out to be an all to real murder. The local constabulary, who has a chip on his shoulder concerning women, quickly dismisses the case as being committed by a passing vagrant and gives the matter no more thought. Meredith can't let it rest, or rather, Kathleen's specter won't let her rest. Meredith keeps seeing Kathleen's ghostly image begging her to solve the murder, but there's a slight communication problem and Meredith is having a hard time deciphering ghostese. To make matters worse, her two friends have trouble believing the ghost story, they also are having a difficult time relating to the new instructor replacing Duncan, two of the maids are bound and determined to support the suffrage movement (much the chagrin of the school's policy), the school girls have secrets of their own which could compromise their position in the school and society, and the owner of the school pops up at various times, flustering Meredith. Meredith finally solves the case, and to show thanks, Kathleen leaves a new found ghost friend for Meredith to help.

Kingsbury blends in the mystery with the other subplots wonderfully. She tends to take off on tangents with the lives of the other tenants of the school, but I believe she does this to break the monotony, add some comedic elements, and she could plan to include these elements later in the story. She's excellent at character development, drawing the reader into the story to where I fly through the book, wondering why I'm suddenly at the end. Afterwards, I'm frantically searching for the next book in the series. It's every reader's and writer's dream.


hamilcar barca said...

i like it that the setting is somewhere other than the "here and now". i wonder if the suffrage movement will play a bigger part in the sequels.

OTOH, a ghost showing thanks by leaving me another ghost-friend to get acquainted with is somewhat of a mixed blessing n'est-ce pas?

Julie said...

You've intrigued me with your review. Nice job! I look forward to more reviews from you on this series.

Christina said...

I think highly of Kingsbury's writings, so I anticipate the next one in the series, Finished Off (due April 2009) to be just as good if not better.

I think the suffrage movement will prove to be interesting in this series. Kingsbury tends to write about women struggling in a man's world, but without losing her femininity.

Meredith's reaction to the new ghost was very interesting, mainly because it's the ghost of a child. She did seem to have accepted her role as a caretaker of sorts for the dearly departed.