Babus chose to read and review The Scarlet Wench by M.K Graff
The Scarlet Wench is a classy whodunit mystery set in Cumbria at the struggling but charming Ramsey Hall. Nora Tierney, an American children’s author and amateur sleuth, now residing in the UK, is drawn into a web of dangerous pranks when a touring theatre troupe plan to put on a play at Ramsey Hall. From the outset malicious pranks set the suspicion on all the unusual characters that form the cast of the play. The personal stakes for Nora are higher in this book as she has to think of her baby son, Sean.
A truly spellbinding read reminiscent of Agatha Christie but with a modern twist. I could see this book being televised. I loved the way the emphasis was on the characters as the plot unfolded and was deeply drawn into suspecting everyone. The book is well written but I was aware the author was not British when at one point following a car accident a few characters had to go to accident and emergency and there was mention of insurance details required, which of course we don’t require here in the UK as we are privileged to have the NHS. This was the only slip I found in the book and despite not reading the previous two in the series I still enjoyed learning about Nora and co without hindrance.
A very promising series but also a great stand alone read for quaint mystery fans.
The Scarlet Wench is a murder mystery in a style with similarities to Miss Marple or Morse. The book is set in Bowness-on-Windermere in Cumbria. A traveling theatre company is about to arrive at Ramsey Lodge where they will be staging a version of Noel Coward’s Blythe Spirit.
We meet Nora Tierney a writer from Connecticut who now lives in the UK. She works at Ramsey Lodge and is looking forward to the actors arriving. Another visitor this week is Detective Declan Barnes, who is arriving for a walking holiday.
The book gets its name form the local pub called The Scarlet Wench after a gruesome incident in the 1860’s when locals claimed to have seen a headless ghost wearing a red dress.
The actors bring their own eccentric delights to the Lodge and their own incidents which all add up to a murder. A scared group they vow that the show must go on and Nora steps up to play a part and become an undercover sleuth to discover the man or woman behind the goings on.
There are plenty of red herrings to keep the reader guessing “who dunnit” a relaxing easy read in a style popular with many readers.
Suraya chose to read and review The Scarlet Wench by M. K. Graff
Review by Suraya Dewing
The Scarlet Wench
By M.K. Graff
Sometimes a story lingers after you have read it. The Scarlet Wench did that for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the way M.K. Graff crafted her characters, especially Nora Tierney, the heroine of the novel and of the series.
She struggles against an impulse to get involved with investigating the unfolding mystery around a murder and other gruesome events that appear to target a cast of second-rate actors staying at Ramsey Lodge. Her friend Simon owns Ramsey Lodge and hopes to improve ailing finances by holding a performance of Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward.
She eventually gets her opportunity when the investigating officer Declan, with whom she is in love, agrees, somewhat reluctantly to her taking the role of Elvira in place of Gemma. Nora argues the only way to find out who is committing the crimes is to infiltrate the group.
Nora is thoroughly believable with her insecurities over Declan, her detective lover and concerns for the safety of Sean, her son.
The scenery descriptions were wonderful and I felt as though I walked around Lake Windermere with the characters as they pondered the mystery of who was murdering cast members and why.
The juxtaposition of events in the story with Blithe Spirit was an interesting technique in that it added colour and texture to what was essentially a mystery novel. It was also fun to rediscover one of my favourite plays. Graff cleverly weaves the two plots right down to the falling chandelier.
This is an excellent and thoroughly enjoyable read.
Karen chose to read and review The Scarlet Wench by M.K. Graff
This book reunites the readers with American writer Nora Tierney and her son Sean. The impending arrival of a theatre group about to stage “Blithe Spirit” promises a house full of paying guests for the staff at Ramsey Lodge. Strange things happen within the group, reawakening Nora’s inner sleuth – much to DI Declan Barnes’ sorrow. As a reader, I automatically tried to solve this strange case – and enjoyed it!
With The Scarlet Wench, M. K. Graff has created a thrilling suspense story with local flair. The story comprises a broad variety of believable and often pretty complex characters, nicely woven situations and interesting interactions to solve a set of crimes. I had a great time reading The Scarlet Wench – it is a very intriguing read. I was drawn into the story right away, thrilled to solve the mystery alongside Nora and Declan. This is for you if you like female sleuths, crime writers, suspense with twists and local flair and a little interwoven romance.
A suspenseful book and/or series to read again. I’m eagerly waiting for the opportunity to read the previous volumes of the series.
Noelle chose to read and review The Scarlett Wench by Marni Graff
Book Review: The Scarlet Wench by M. K. Graff
I was intrigued by the title of this book and discovered I had selected a true British cozy, a murder mystery with an alluring setting: an old inn on the west coast of England’s largest lake, Lake Windermere, in Cumbria, England. Cumbria is the Lake District National Park, and the author describes its beauty well in the pages of this book.
Nora Tierney, an American writer, has agreed to help Simon Ramsey, co-owner of Ramsey Lodge (the inn), run the inn while his sister, the other owner, is away in France on her honeymoon. Simon is the illustrator of Nora’s children’s books and was once in love with Nora. When Nora did not reciprocate, his affection found a new object: Maeve Adams, who is the manager of Ramsey Lodge. On this weekend a troupe of actors will encamp in the Lodge to stage Noel Coward’s play “Blithe Spirit,” and Simon needs help managing his peripatetic guests and all their needs. Nora’s love is Detective Inspector Declan Barnes, who works for the Oxford police. He is taking a much needed vacation at Ramsey Lodge, ostensibly to hike but really to spend time with Nora. Complicating their relationship is the fact that Nora has a six month old son, Sean, whose father is dead; his parents, whom Nora met at his funeral and dislikes, don’t know they have a grandson.
The actors recruited for the play are wonderful characters in themselves: Grayson Lange, the head of the troup and an aging, narcissistic playboy, accompanied by Fiona Church, whom he recently broke off with and the voluptuous blonde Gemma Harwell, the new object of his attentions. Poppy Braeburn doubles and the troupe’s costume designer and has designs on Grayson. Rupert Denton and Lydia Brown are aging actors with a grudge against Grayson: their daughter committed suicide shortly after Grayson ended their relationship. The most amusing troupe member is Helen Mochrie. She plays Madame Arcati in the play and is in character practically the whole time. Spoiler alert: she is also Grayson’s mother. The reader is drawn into the difficult, interwoven relationships of the troupe from the moment they arrive at the Lodge, and I found myself wondering why they were there and what were they up to?
A series of pranks sets the action in motion – a dead rabbit on a pillow, a trip wire on the stair – nasty deeds which escalate to a murder. A massive storm traps the troupe and the staff at the Lodge, and Nora who has become increasingly worried for the safety of her child, is determined to stick her nose into the mystery and help Declan unmask the killer. She agrees to take on the role of the person murdered in the play to get closer to the principle actors, but is under more pressure because a lawyer representing Sean’s grandparents is scheduled to meet her after the weekend.
In true British mystery form, there are a number of ancillary characters, any one of which could be the killer: the cook, the part-time staff person, and the Lodge’s handy man, who lost his wife some months before in a hit and run and who was hired as the stage manager. Who might have done the crime?
To augment the format of a British mystery, there is a cast of characters and a map of the Lodge at the beginning, along with chapter epigrams which are all lines from the play and which give the hint that the play’s plot is subtly influencing the action.
If I had any criticism of the book, it would be its rather slow start – but isn’t that typical of a British mystery? – and the fact that the baby Sean is practically perfect in every way. Would that my son had been that good at six months!
This is the third in the Nora Tierney mysteries, and I recommend it to anyone who loves this type of mystery – and many who might like to try one. I think a read of the previous two is definitely in order, but this one can be read as a stand alone.