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Friday 11 November 2022

‘A Killer Christmas at Honeychurch Hall’ by Hannah Dennison.

Published by Constable,
10 November 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-4087-1590-1 (PB)

With less than a week to Christmas, the Dartmouth Antique Emporium where Kat Stanford, ex-presenter of the antiques TV show Fakes and Treasures, now rents a space for her collectibles and Mobile Valuation Services, is turning out to be having one of their busiest days. Not a day for Kat to be shivering outside in the driving rain after receiving a message to meet her boyfriend Detective Inspector Shawn Cropper, who turns out to be a no show.  As she heads back inside, she is greeted by her friend Di Wilkins who with ashen face informs her that ‘Barbie’s been stolen’ and she has called the police.

The Christmas Gala had been organised by Ryan and Marion Cartwright whom the Dowager Countess following the cook’s retirement from Honeychurch Hall, had engaged to take over as estate Manager and head of house respectively.  They had been recommended by Lady Lavinia’s brother The Earl of Denby, as a power couple who had worked for many Hollywood celebrities. The couple have been dubbed by Kat’s mother Iris, as Ken and Barbie. The highlight of the Gala Day was to be an auction for Emerald Barbie, one of the original Barbie dolls from 1959, donated by Cathie White a fellow TV celebrity of Kat’s, and reported to be worth thousands of pounds. Also, a mystery celebrity is flying in from Monaco as the guest of honour.

As Kat struggles with the enormity of the situation in which she finds herself, she learns that Shawn, had never sent her a message to meet. And her friend Di Wilkins who was supposed to be keeping her eye on Emerald Barbie is acting oddly.  Despite all the people milling about no one appears to have seen the theft. Although Shawn has returned from London, his new job is shrouded in mystery, and he seems to have little time for Kat. His replacement is handsome DI Gregory Mallory, who tells Kat that Shawn is under a lot of pressure. At this present time, so is Kat.

Driving back to Little Dipperton Kat comes upon a car accident at the bottom of the hill and recognises the Land Rover with the dowager countess at the wheel.  She, who has no driving license – Oh! dear more problems. The other occupant of the car is in a rage until she recognises Kat from the television, and then introduces herself as Mrs Harriet Bone who has booked to stay in a Shepherds hut, it being the only place, she could find owing to the coming gala event. After calming her down and making arrangements for her car, Kat drives Harriet to the shepherd’s hut and, Oh! joy she loves it. One problem solved.

With the Gala only a few days away Kat has not yet disclosed to the Cartwrights that Emerald Barbie is missing. When the photographer Lance suggests he should do some photos of Emerald Barbie she endeavours to distract him as they walk through the galleried reception of the main house. Lance is particularly taken with the impressive sight of Florian, the stuffed polar bear standing by the magnificent fireplace. The bear had been brought back from the Arctic by one of the Honeychurch explorers in the nineteenth century.

Then Kat finds a dead body in the Stumpery.

So, there we have it. The success of the gala event hangs of the auction of Emerald Barbie, who is missing. As the tickets to the gala cost £250, one can see why this is a nightmare situation. The celebrity guest remains a mystery. As in previous books the identity of the author Krystalle Storm is again raising its head and creating a headache for Kat. And people Kat thought as of friends are acting oddly.  Now they may have a killer at large. Can it get any worse? Will Kat put on her sleuthing hat and track down Emerald Barbie in time for the auction?

This is the ninth book in the series, and they just get better. Cleverly plotted to keep the reader on their toes, this intriguing mystery had me foxed to the end. Twist after twist will have you avidly turning pages. Phew, don’t miss this one. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

 Hannah Dennison was born and raised in Hampshire, but on leaving school landed a job as an obituary writer/amateur dramatic reviewer for a Devon newspaper. Hannah is the author of the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries and the Vicky Hill Mysteries, both set in Devon, England. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Hannah originally moved to Los Angeles from England to pursue screenwriting.  Hannah is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, The Crime Writers Association, Mystery People, The Historic Houses Association, the National Trust and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. She enjoys hiking, horseback riding, skiing, theatre and seriously good chocolate.  

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