The first in a brand-new series from New York Times bestselling author Sheila Connolly!
Katherine Hamilton’s goal in high school was to escape from her dead-end hometown of Asheboro, Maryland. Fifteen years later she’s got a degree in hospitality management and a great job at a high-end boutique hotel in Baltimore. Until, that is, the hotel is acquired by a chain, and she’s laid off. When Kate’s high school best friend calls with a mysterious invitation to come talk with the town leaders of Asheboro, she agrees to make the trip, curious about where this new opportunity might lead.
Once Kate arrives, the town council members reveal that their town is on the verge of going bankrupt, and they’ve decided that Kate’s skills and knowledge make her the perfect person to cure all their ills. The town has used its last available funds to buy the huge Victorian mansion just outside of town, hoping to use it to attract some of the tourists who travel to visit the nearby Civil War battle sites. Kate has less-than-fond memories of the mansion, for personal reasons, but to make matters worse, the only person who has presented a possible alternate plan is Cordelia Walker—Kate’s high school nemesis.
But a few days later, while touring the mansion, Kate stumbles over a body—and it’s none other than Cordelia. Kate finds herself juggling the murder investigation and her growing fascination with the old house, which itself is full of long-hidden mysteries. Kate must clear her name and save her town—before she ends up in hot water.
In this amiable if unsuspenseful series launch from Connolly (Many a Twist and five other County Cork mysteries), Baltimore hospitality manager Kate Hamilton loses her job at a boutique hotel being acquired by a Japanese conglomerate at the same time an old friend begs for help saving Asheboro, Md., where they grew up. Unremarkable Asheboro has been left nearly bankrupt after the town council purchased a long-empty local mansion in a deal gone sour. Kate has painful memories of both the mansion and Cordelia "Cordy" Walker, the onetime high-school bully who orchestrated the failed plan to turn the opulent Victorian house into a hotel, but the challenge inspires her. Exploring the home with hopes of finding out more about its original owner, Kate discovers Cordy's bloody corpse. As she sets out to solve Cordy's murder, Kate devises a plan to reinvent the town as a working Victorian village. The town council's cluelessness and other implausibilities won't bother cozy fans, who will enjoy Connolly's characteristically warm treatment of small-town life.
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I love the Sheila Connolly books. Unfortunately, I can’t afford them anymore
Debut novel in A Victorian Village Mystery series
Murder at the Mansion by Sheila Connolly is the beginning of A Victorian Village Mystery series. Katherine “Kate” Hamilton left her home of Asheboro, Maryland after high school. Katie currently works at Oriole Suites Hotel in Baltimore and is surprised when she gets a call from Lisbeth Scott, her best friend in high school. A storm went through Asheboro a few weeks ago causing severe damage and many of the residents do not have insurance to cover repairs. The town is on the verge of going under and they want Kate’s assistance. The town council had been convinced to buy the Old Barton home (a beautiful Victorian mansion) by Cordelia Walker. It turns out she had personal motivations for the venture and her plan would not benefit Asheboro. They are hoping Kate can use her skills to come up with a viable and inexpensive plan for to resurrect the town. Kate tours the Barton mansion and meets the caretaker, Josh Wainwright. She is surprised to see it in such beautiful condition. It is like stepping back in time to the Victorian era, and Kate begins to formulate a plan. As Kate exits the mansion with Josh, she finds her high school nemesis, Cordelia Walker dead on the front steps. Detective Reynolds of the Maryland State Police Criminal Division is in charge of the case, but he could use someone local to be his eyes and ears. Since the Oriole was bought out, Kate has the time to aid the town and Detective Reynolds. While in Asheboro working on her plan for the town and researching the Barton family, Kate delves into Cordelia’s life looking for clues. What had Cordelia uncovered that got her killed? Join Kate on her inaugural mystery in Murder at the Mansion.
Murder at the Mansion contains good writing and with varying pacing. The story starts out strong as we are introduced to Kate. I like the main character as she is smart, likeable, hardworking, and willing to help her hometown. Kate does need to work on her self-confidence (don’t we all). I like the books concept of a struggling small town with a beautiful Victorian home. If something is not done to draw in tourists, Asheboro will die quickly. The Barton mansion sounds gorgeous. I just loved the descriptions of the Victorian masterpiece (I would love to own this home). I like the vision Kate came up with for the town and I am looking forward to seeing it come to fruition in future books in this series. The mystery has layers to it which are revealed as Kate searches for clues and I like that the mystery ties into the Barton mansion. I wish, though, that it had been harder to pinpoint the guilty party. I found the pace to vary throughout the story and it was especially slow in the middle. There was too much repetition and speculation. I feel that the book needed further editing. If Murder at the Mansion had been tightened up, it would have been a much better cozy mystery. I was curious as to why Kate did not look up information online. She kept wanting details on the original owner of the Barton home, but she did not do the obvious. There is mild foul language in the book (and it is not needed). Overall, I thought Murder at the Mansion was an intriguing first novel in A Victorian Village Mystery series. I am giving Murder at the Mansion 3 out of 5 stars. I am curious to see what happens next as Kate works to save Asheboro.