Murder in the Mystery Suite: A Book Retreat Mystery
Author: Ellery Adams
Published August 2014
Available at all major book retailers
Author Ellery Adams is not a newcomer to writing cozy mysteries, as she is also the author of the series Books by the Bay Mysteries and the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries, but Murder in the Mystery Suite is the first title in her new series- the Book Retreat Mysteries. Adams naturally spends a fair part of the book describing the setting- a quaint village in Virginia with charming boutiques such as the Run for Cover bookstore, Canvas Creamery art and frozen yogurt shop, and Cheshire Cat Pub- and the central cast of characters, managing to do so with plenty of imagery so I felt like I was beside the main character Jane Steward as she interacts with everyone. The story centers around the events that take place during the Murder and Mayhem Week at Storyton Hall, a grandiose resort made for book lovers the world over. The hotel, characters, and village are decidedly British-leaning in name and decor, so much so it’s easy to forget the book takes place in the United States. However, this makes sense since the Steward family hails from England.
Storyton Hall Hotel Manager Jane Steward has taken the reins over from her Great Aunt Octavia and Great Uncle Aloysius, who are both nearing their eighties. The hotel is in need of many cosmetic and not-so-cosmetic repairs, so to raise the money the hotel needs, Jane arranges a whole week of activities for murder mystery lovers. Guests take on the identity of their favorite detectives at many of the hotel’s events- such as a Halloween ball and a scavenger hunt using quotes from detective stories as clues. It is during this scavenger hunt that Jane provides a prize of one of Octavia’s first edition non-fiction novels “Lost Letters,” a book about famous author Adela Dundee. It isn’t until Octavia collapses from low blood sugar that Jane learns she was given the wrong copy of the book as a prize. The version she gave has something very valuable hidden inside- so Jane must now recover the book. Apparently someone else in the hotel knows of this secret, because he or she is willing to do whatever it takes to take possession of it- including murder. As the body count rises, Jane has to find a way to save the book and its secret while keeping the innocents within the hotel safe from a murderer.
This book didn’t follow the normal path cozy mysteries take. Instead of brazenly taking off after the killer, Jane is intelligent enough to know she shouldn’t attempt to confront a murder suspect alone. Jane is always with someone trustworthy or in a large group of people when questioning or confronting suspects. Because of this, there was no point in time where Jane’s life was in serious or even semi-serious danger, and I was totally okay with that. It was refreshing, but since I didn’t know if there was going to be a surprise accomplice at the end, I was worried until the last word that something bad would happen to Jane. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.) The only thing that really drove me nuts in this book is how much Jane talks to herself. Instead of just having an internal dialogue or writing Jane’s thoughts as “Jane was sad that he let his love for… ,” Jane was constantly murmuring or whispering to herself. It just wasn’t necessary to tell the story. Regardless, I fell in love with the cast of characters and the setting, and I recommend this book for a fun, leisurely read. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Book Retreat Mystery Series, Murder in the Jane Austen Parlor, when it’s released next summer.