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Saturday 16 November 2019

‘Tidings of Death at Honeychurch Hall’ by Hannah Dennison

Published by Constable,
14 November 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-4721-2850-8 (PBO)

Kat Stanford ex-presenter of the antiques TV show Fakes and Treasures, now a resident of Little Dipperton in Devon, is relieved to see a huge turnout at Honeychurch Hall for the exhibition of the legendary artefacts she has put together in the museum room in order to raise money for the critical repairs needed to the east wing.   Honeychurch Hall had never before been opened to the public and Lord Rupert Honeychurch the current Earl of Grenville and owner is surprised at the number of people who have flocked to the six-hundred-year-old house. With just 10 days to Christmas Kat’s mother Iris, who lives in the Carriage House on the Honeychurch Hall estate, is dispensing her home-made gin along with the mulled wine, which she insists could be the reason for the high number of attendees.

Rupert had insisted that no security was needed as the situation was safely in the hands of Seth Cropper the butler who was standing as sentinel next to a heavy suit of armour. As the day progressed Kat began to relax – no artefacts had been damaged and the Bleeding Hawk of Honeychurch thought to be over two thousand years old has not disintegrated into a pile of dust.  The hawk was said to ooze a blood-like substance to warn of an impending death, and that anyone touching it would meet with misfortune. As the bird had been sealed in its coffin for more than 150 years there was no verification of this curse.  However, today the lid was off!

With the arrival of Nick Bond reporter for the local newspaper, the Dipperton Deal the photographing got underway. The late arrival of a couple from North Yorkshire, Angus and Lala livened the proceedings a little too much. Fascinated by the talk of the bleeding hawk, Lala declaring she was not superstitious and leaned forward to touch the bird. At which point pandemonium broke out and, in the ensuing melee, the suit of armour fell on the aged butler.

Once the ambulance has taken Seth to hospital and things calmed down, it becomes apparent that Lala and Angus have gone.  Also gone have some valuable objects from the exhibition.  Blame, opinions, jealousies and mysteries ensue.  With the arrival of Detective Inspector Shawn Cropper, it would be hoped some semblance of order will be restored. Unfortunately, Shawn is still attired in his red Santa suit complete with fake white beard, thick busy eyebrows, and so the squabbling continues.

But there are many unanswered questions.  Just who are Lala and Angus? Have the valuable items really been stolen? And, why did Lenny (Major Leonard Evans) currently proposed for a Queen’s Gallantry Medal, take one look at the armour falling, turn ghostly white and back out of the room?

And then a dead body is found…

The characters are marvellous. And the story becomes more intricate and fascinating by the page.  I love a good a mystery and this one has it in spades.  Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

Hannah Dennison writes The Vicky Hill Mysteries and the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Constable Crime/Little Brown), both set in the wilds of the Devonshire countryside. British born, Hannah has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Hannah has served on numerous judging committees for Mystery Writers of America and is currently serving on the MWA Board. She is a passionate supporter of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the National Trust. She enjoys all country pursuits, movies, theatre and seriously good chocolate. 

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