Jeanne of the Bookblog of the Bristol Library is back today with her latest review…
Treadmill Books: Book Retreat Mysteries by Ellery Adams
Storyton Hall is every reader’s dream. A transplanted English manor house in the Virginia countryside has been turned into a booklover’s retreat, with rooms named after authors and a dazzling library complete with amazing librarian, and a staff on hand to meet every need. Nearby is a delightful little village with shops and specialty restaurants.
Young widow Jane Steward helps Great Aunt Octavia and Great Uncle Aloysis run the Hall, which serves as her home and the home of her twin sons, Hemingway and Fitzgerald. In an effort to entice more visitors to Storyton, she devises a Mystery Weekend, in which guests are to come in character as their favorite sleuth. Things take an unpleasant turn when a guest turns up dead and a valuable item goes missing. Jane is determined to solve the mystery before (horrors!) disrepute comes upon Storyton Hall.
Frankly, I wasn’t too sure I was going to enjoy the first in this series. It seemed a bit too precious in some ways. The staff seemed to have walked out of Downton Abbey (before all the unpleasantness about Mr. Bates) and the lavishness of the food and the furnishings seemed a bit too over the top. Then there are the six year old boys who squabble but who are both precocious and preternaturally honest and honorable. Jane herself seems mistress of every situation.
It also seemed a vaguely familiar attitude.
It finally dawned on me that Jane must have been Amelia Peabody in another life, with just a pinch of Emma Peel thrown in as the series progresses. The characters strike me as very similar and it began to dawn on me that some of that same tongue in cheek attitude lay beneath the tousled curls and brusque manner of Emerson—er, Edwin, who scowls like Heathcliff and is possessed of a manly physique and courtly manners under that gruff exterior. And if you were to split Ramses into two boys…. (Note: I have no idea if Ellery Adams meant this as an homage or not; this is only my impression.)
All said and done, this is a fun series for book lovers who will chortle over some of the discussions and swoon at some of the hidden treasures as they (and Jane) discover the secrets of the Steward family heritage. Secret societies, lost books, ancient bloodlines, and mystery/ literary references abound, making for a whimsical mix. It’s one of those things that a reader either buys into and go along for a glorious ride or sulks because it seems too impossible.
Which is why for me, this isn’t a treadmill book. To appreciate some of the detail, one has to pause to enjoy and that doesn’t happen on a treadmill—or if it does, it’s because I’ve stopped walking. It’s also a type of book I have to be in the mood for to enjoy, a frothy confection that falls flat unless one can enter into the spirit of the thing.
I will read on, but from a seated position. I may also re-read some of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody books. It’s been a long time since I first read Crocodile on the Sandbank.
Book Retreat Mysteries
1. Murder in the Mystery Suite
2. Murder in the Paperback Parlor
3. Murder in the Secret Garden