Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison

 

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Murder at Honeychurch Hall
by Hannah Dennison

Delightful mystery and I enjoyed every minute of it.
~Books-n-Kisses

“Murder at Honeychurch Hall” is a fantastic start to a new series. It’s quirky, funny, and engaging.
~Bea’s Book Nook

You can vacation in Devon this summer for merely the price of a book!
~Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries and Meows

I was kept thoroughly entertained throughout this book, not only by the mystery but by the many quirky characters that inhabit Honeychurch Hall and the town of Little Dipperton in the Devon countryside.
~Melina’s Book Blog

Murder At Honeychurch HallMurder at Honeychurch Hall: A Mystery
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (May 13, 2014)
ISBN-10: 1250007798
ISBN-13: 978-1250007797
E-Book ASIN: B00H6EOJNW
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Synopsis of Honeychurch Hall
By Hannah Dennison

Set against the backdrop of Agatha Christie’s beloved Devon, TV celebrity Kat Stanford discovers that her newly widowed mother Iris has recklessly bought a dilapidated carriage house on a country estate known as Honeychurch Hall. Although times have changed at the manor house, a line still exists between those upstairs, and those down. Iris’s arrival is greeted with suspicion—but that’s not all. Iris harbors an even bigger secret that not even her daughter knows: Iris writes under the pseudonym, Krystalle Storm, and is a best-selling author of racy bodice-rippers.

Throw in a feisty, octogenarian countess, a precocious seven year old who is obsessed with the famous fighter pilot called Biggles, a treasure trove of antiques; as well as the paparazzi, always hungry for celebrity news. Add the occasional haunting from the resident family of ghosts, and there is more than one motive for murder. Yet at its core, the story explores the relationship between a mother and daughter facing new and uncertain beginnings and makes a good case for the notion that those nearest and dearest to us are often the most duplicitous of all.

Murder at Honeychurch Hall (Minotaur Books; May 13th; ISBN 978-1-250-00779-7; $24.99) is a delightful read filled with good old-fashioned storytelling and set in Agatha Christie’s beloved Devon. Hannah Dennison hilariously captures the subtleties of life within the walls of a grand yet crumbling English country estate, and along the way she makes a good case for the notion that those nearest and dearest to us are often the most duplicitous of all.

As our story opens, TV celebrity Kat Stanford discovers, to her chagrin, that her newly widowed mother Iris has recklessly bought a dilapidated carriage house on the country estate known as Honeychurch Hall.

Although times have changed at the manor house, a line still exists between those upstairs, and those down. Iris’s arrival is greeted with suspicion—but that’s not all. Iris harbors an even bigger secret that not even her daughter knows: Iris writes under the pseudonym, Krystalle Storm, and is a best-selling author of racy bodice-rippers.

Throw in a feisty, octogenarian countess, a precocious seven year old who is obsessed with the famous fighter pilot called Biggles, a treasure trove of antiques; as well as the paparazzi, always hungry for celebrity news. Add the occasional haunting from the resident family of ghosts, and there is more than one motive for murder.

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About The Author

Born in England, Hannah relocated to Los Angeles with her daughter and two cats to pursue a career in screenwriting. Along the road to publication she has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Hannah is the author of the Vicky Hill Mysteries (Constable UK) and the first, in her new series, “Murder at Honeychurch Hall” (Minotaur). Now living in Portland, Oregon Hannah continues to teach mystery writing at UCLA, has served on numerous judging committees for the Mystery Writers of America and still works part-time for a west coast advertising agency. She is married to an advertising executive and enjoys hiking, horseback riding, skiing and seriously good chocolate. http://www.hannahdennison.com

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/VickyHillMysteries?ref=hl

Twitter https://twitter.com/HannahLDennison

GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1165068.Hannah_Dennison

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Tour Participants

May 11 – Books-n-Kisses – Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
May 12 – Bea’s Book Nook – Review
May 13 – dru’s book musing – Guest Post, Giveaway
May 14 – Chloe Gets a Clue – Interview
May 15 – Queen of All She Reads – Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
May 16 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows – Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
May 17 – Melina’s Book Blog – Review, Interview

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Chapter One

 

“Mum!” I exclaimed. “Thank God you’ve called. I’ve been so worried.”

“I hope you’re not driving, Kat,” chided my mother on the other end of the line.

“I am driving,” I said as my VW Golf crawled through the heavy stream of London traffic along the Old Brompton Road. “And don’t change the subject.”

“If you’re not wearing a headset, you’ll get a ticket—”

“Which is why I am pulling over,” I said. “Do not hang up. Let me stop somewhere.”

Mum gave a heavy sigh. “Quickly then. This call is expensive.”

I turned into Bolton Place, a quiet residential street divided by two graceful crescents that encircled communal gardens. Spotting a space outside the church of St. Mary’s, I parked and switched off the engine.

“Where did you get to last night?” I demanded. “I was about to call out the cavalry.”

“You sound tense,” said my mother, deliberately avoiding the question. “Is everything alright with Dylan?”

“You know very well my boyfriend is called David,” I said, annoyed that she always knew how to hit a nerve. “God, it’s boiling.” I wound down the window, taking in the heat of a hot August day and the smell of freshly mown grass.

“You’re too old to have a boyfriend—”

Man friend, then. And I’m not tense,” I said. “I was concerned when you didn’t come to my leaving party last night. Did you have another migraine?”

“No. I was in denial,” said Mum flatly. “I was hoping you weren’t going to go through with giving up Fakes & Treasures.”

“I want my life back, Mum. Have you any idea what it’s like to be constantly in the public eye?”

“Such a pity,” she went on. “I loved seeing you on the telly. You always looked so nice. Are you sure you’re not making a mistake?”

“You sound just like David—”

“Oh dear,” said Mum. “In that case, I’m delighted and I’m sorry I didn’t come.”

Ignoring the barb, I said, “Good, because I’m delighted that we’re going into business together. Speaking of which, I thought we could look at some properties this weekend.”

“That may not be possible—”

“And I must show you what I bought at Bonhams saleroom this morning,” I said. “Two boxes of Victorian toys and vintage teddy bears that I got at a bargain price—our first stock items. I can’t wait to show them to you.”

There was a long pause.

“Did you hear what I said, Mother?”

Another even longer pause and then, “I’ve broken my right hand,” she said bluntly.

“Oh Mum,” I cried. “Are you okay?”

“I am now.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I’m telling you now.”

“How bad is it?” I said. “Can you cook? Dress yourself?”

“With one hand?”

“Well, you do have the other one.”

“Very funny.”

“I’ll drive over straight away,” I said.

“What about Dylan? Won’t he mind?”

David is away this weekend.”

“Your father wouldn’t like me gadding off without him,” said Mum. “Did you know that we never once spent a night apart in all our fifty years of marriage?”

“Yes I did know and it was forty-nine years, not fifty,” I pointed out. “And if you going to be unkind about David, I won’t come.”

“When did you say his divorce from that Trudy woman is final? I keep forgetting.”

“It’s complicated,” I muttered.

“Have you watched Trudy’s new television show?” Mum said, hitting another nerve. “Very amusing—Walk of Shame! Celebrity Family Secrets Revealed.

“Mum … I’m warning you. I do not want to talk about Trudy Wynne,” I said. “Do you want me to come or not?”

“Yes, yes,” said Mum wearily. “I do have a little project that needs finishing. Some typing.”

“I didn’t know you could type.”

“Of course I can type,” said Mum with scorn. “I used Daddy’s Olivetti.”

“That’s a collector’s item. I’m surprised you can still buy the ribbon,” I said. “I’ll stop by my place to pick up a few things and should be with you in under an hour.”

“I doubt it,” said Mum. “I’ve moved—now, don’t get all cross and silly.”

“Moved? Where? When?” I cried. “What about our business plans?”

“I’ve changed my mind. What do you need me for anyway?”

“The whole idea was that you’d help me run Kat’s Collectibles,” I said, exasperated. “We’d find you a lovely flat above a shop—”

“Whilst you moved in with David,” said Mum. “You know your father would never have approved of you living in sin.”

“It’s the twenty-first century, Mother,” I said. “And anyway, Dad wanted me to look after you. He didn’t want you to be lonely.”

“I’m not lonely.”

“When did you make this momentous decision?”

“Let me see, about a month ago.”

“A month? But …” I was beginning to feel light-headed. “We speak every day. Sometimes two or three times a day.” Then I remembered that recently Mum was always the one ringing me. “I thought I didn’t recognize the phone number. Where are you calling from?”
“My mobile.”

“You have a mobile? Seriously?” I said. “And when did you put the house up for sale?”

“All these questions,” said Mum. “That nice man who runs the dry cleaners made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

“Mr. Winkleigh?” I gasped. “Dad would never have sold to Mr. Winkleigh. He couldn’t stand him.”

“Well, your father’s not here so he won’t find out, will he?”

I tried to absorb yet another piece of disturbing information. Even the thought of shopping for groceries would guarantee to bring on one of my mother’s “turns” and yet somehow, she’d managed to move house. “You can’t have done it all by yourself.”

“I’m not an invalid, you know,” said Mum.

This was rich coming from someone who spent all my school holidays with a migraine lying down in a dark room.

“And besides,” she added. “Alfred helped.”

“And Alfred is whom? Your Spanish boyfriend?” Nothing would surprise me at this point.

“Alfred is hardly a Spanish name, dear. A Spanish name would be Juan or perhaps Pablo,” said Mum mildly. “Alfred is my brother.”

I swear I stopped breathing. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”

“Well, I do,” said Mum. “As a matter of fact I had two—though Billy’s dead and gone. Aneurism on Blackpool Pier. He died young. So very sad.”

“So I must have cousins. I’d love to have cousins.”

“You wouldn’t like them.”

“I would like them.” I could feel my temper rising as I remembered envying my friends’ big families, especially at Christmas. I hated being an only child. “Did Dad know you had brothers?”

“Of course he knew. He just didn’t like them so we didn’t see them,” said Mum. “Does it matter?”

“Actually, it does matter,” I said. “I always thought you and Dad were orphans.”

“Really? I wonder why?”

“Because that’s what you told me,” I shouted.

“Well, never mind all that,” said Mum briskly. “You’d better get cracking if you want to be here in time for tea.”

“Wait a moment,” I said. “What did you do with all my things?”

“Oxfam,” Mum declared. “And before you throw another wobbly don’t worry—I put all your furry friends in a suitcase. I have it right here—”

“And my dressing-up box?” I said, recalling the iron trunk full of dozens of beautifully handmade costumes. Mum had always been very nifty with the needle. “I want my children to have those.”

“You’d better get a move on in that department or it will be too late.”

“Thanks for reminding me, Mum,” I said.

“I was just joking.”

But I knew she wasn’t.

“Do you have a pencil?” Mum went on. “I’d better give you the address.”

“Wait,” I said. “I need something to write on.” I pulled the sale catalogue out of my tote bag and found a pen. “Ready.”

“The Carriage House, Honeychurch Hall Estate—”

“Honeychurch?” I snorted. “How very Winnie-the-Pooh.”

“Don’t snort. It’s so unattractive,” said Mum. “Honeychurch is all one word.” There was a long pause. “Little Dipperton.”

“Little what?” I said.

“Dipperton, like the Big Dipper only little. With t-o-n on the end.”

“Where the hell is Little Dipperton?”

“Devon.”

Devon?” I sputtered.

“Near Dartmouth. Very pretty little fishing port. You’ll love it. I’ll take you there for a cream tea.”

“Devon!” I said again. “That’s over two hundred miles away.”

“Yes, I am aware of that. I just moved here.”

“But you don’t even like the countryside.”

“Your father didn’t but I do,” said my mother cheerfully. “I love the countryside. I’ve always hated city life. Now I wake up to the sound of the birds, the smell of fresh air—”

“But … Devon.” I felt dizzy at yet another revelation. “What about Dad’s ashes? I thought we agreed we’d put him in Tooting Crematorium? You’ll never be able to visit him.”

“I changed my mind about Tooting Crematorium. He suffered from claustrophobia, you know.”

“Mum, he’s in an orange Tupperware container right now,” I exclaimed. “What’s the difference?”

“It’s too final.”
I tried a different tack. “What about all your friends?”

“Your father worked for HM Revenue & Customs,” said Mum. “We didn’t have friends.”

“You don’t even drive.”
“I’ve always been able to drive. I just liked your father driving me.” Mum chuckled. “In fact, I’ve just bought myself a nice MINI Cooper in Chili Red.”

“How can you afford a new car? A house—and a grand house by the wound of things—in the country?” Alarm bells began to ring in my head. “How did you hear about this carriage house in the first place?”

“I have contacts.”

“But you must have viewed it? How? When?”

“I don’t have to answer any more questions from you,” Mum said. “I can do what I like.”

Another ghastly thought occurred to me. “You’ve spent all of Dad’s money, haven’t you?” There was an ominous silence on the other end of the phone. “He said you would.”

“Katherine, there’s something I need to tell you—”

“You have spent it!” I exclaimed. “You only call me Katherine when you’re about to give me bad news.”

“Does the name Krystalle Storm mean anything to you?”
Thrown for a moment, I said, “No. Why? Who’s she when she’s at home?”
“Critics say she’ll be even bigger than Barbara Cartland.”

“Who?”
“The romance writer. Barbara Cartland.”

“What’s that got to do with Dad’s money?”

“Her books are everywhere. Over half a million sold world-wide,” Mum enthused. “I’m surprised—”

“You know I don’t read that kind of rubbish, Mum. What did Dad call it? ‘Penny Dreadfuls for pathetic old ladies,’” I said. “And don’t try to change the subject again.”

“Fine,” Mum snapped. “You know what, I don’t think I need your help after all. I can manage on my own.”

“Now you’re throwing a wobbly. I’m happy to come. In fact I quite fancy a cream tea.”

“No,” said Mum coldly. “I don’t want you here. I already have someone who is longing to lend me his hand. He’s very kind. Very kind indeed.” And before I could utter another word, my mother hung up.

I was deeply perplexed. It was clear that Mum’s grief had made her rash and impulsive. What had possessed her to move so far away from London? The fact that she’d managed to get into my father’s carefully protected pension fund was extremely worrying. My mother was notoriously hopeless with money. It was a family joke. Dad and I had gone to great lengths to make sure that she’d just receive a monthly allowance so she couldn’t spend it all at once. I felt I’d let him down and he’d only been gone four months.

There was nothing else for it. I’d have to drive to Little Dipperton, wherever that might be, and make her see sense.

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