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Thursday 2 November 2023

‘Dagger of Death at Honeychurch Hall’ by Hannah Dennison.

Published by Constable,
2 November 2023.
ISBN: 978-1-4087-1592-5 (PB)

This is the tenth book in the series set in Little Dipperton in Devon, and dipping into Little Dipperton is always entertaining. For readers new to the series, Kat Stanford, is the ex-presenter of the antiques TV show Fakes and Treasures.  She now runs Kat’s Collectables and Mobile Valuation Services. Her mother Iris is the secret novelist, Krystalle Storm. There is a reason why Iris keeps quiet about this and one which is causing Kat some sleepless nights, not least because it’s not easy to keep a secret in a village where everyone knows everyone else’s business, but has put a strain on her relationship with Shawn the policeman. 

We find Kat at the Luxton Auction house where she has successfully bid for a box of  damaged teddy bears of no real value, but she will repair them, and they will then be donated to the children’s ward in the local hospital. Kat is then accosted by a Staci Trotter who says she won the auction.  While Staci is reading a text on her phone Kat tells Johnny, the auction house manager, that she has been asked by DS Clive Banks to collect a box of military memorabilia that Clive’s Uncle Trevor had put in for sale and that his widowed grandmother Olive wants it withdrawn. Her husband was a local legend in the Second World War, and she wants to keep the memorabilia.  It’s Lot 49 she says.

Unfortunately, Staci Trotter hadn’t given up on her claim to have won the auction but is less hostile in her next approach making an increased offer of £100 for the  damaged bears. But learning that Kat lives at Honeychurch Hall, jumps in her pink Fiat and drives off at speed. On her way home Kat sees a motorbike she saw parked at the auction rooms, now lying on its side in the road. Worried that someone could be injured she stops to check and so does another concerned motorist introducing himself as ‘Peter Becker, I’m with the Chapel Restoration Trust of Great Britain.’ Kat  smiled. I can assume you’ve come to see the church clock.’ The new vicar, the Reverend just-call-me-Danny Pritchard, had only moved to the area three weeks ago and had already launched an appeal to repair the church clock that had stopped in 1944 and never worked again. With no one around they move the bike and continue on their way.

Vicar Danny Pritchard seem to have made quite an impact. Retired nurse Gladys Knight had been seen emerging from Blackberry Cottage in a raincoat and bright red lipstick, seeking the new vicar to check his pulse – really?  Then Kat discovers that Iris thinks he is ‘very striking’ and blushed when she said it.

When Danny meets Peter Becker in the village, he seemed like a hound who had found the scent of a fox, and discussion of the repair to the Church clock seemed to take on a life of its own pulling in historical discussion of the two main families in the village, the Carew’s and the Honeychurch’s.  And somehow resulting in Danny, Peter and Kat climbing the tower. The description of climbing the church tower is something a claustrophobic like me prefers to gloss over.

On a personal front, Kat is still in limbo re her relationship with Shawn, as at New Year he had asked for a temporary break.  When Shawn was promoted, he had been replaced by DI Greg Mallory, with whom Kat shared a dalliance under the mistletoe. But Shawn has now turned up and has news, unfortunately he has not kept Kat in the loop, and she is less than impressed with the decisions he is throwing at her expecting instant agreement. On their way home they were stopped at a police accident sign and Kat learns that Staci Trotter is dead

The following morning Clive looking extremely flustered informs Kat that there is a valuable item missing from Granddads memorabilia, and his grandmother is very upset. She says, it’s worth thousands of pounds. You need to go back to Luxton’s and find it, he said.  

With the news that Staci Trotter was murdered matters take a dramatic turn. A second death occurs, and the valuable missing item, a dagger turns up. Revelation after revelation come to the surface. Secrets that link back to the second World War.  How well do we know the people we have lived among for years. Judging by the emerging shocks in Little Dipperton, not very well. The final chapters are a stunning roller coaster of events, that had me on the edge of my seat. A most compelling read. And one I highly recommend.
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.  She 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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