Taking place at the turn of the 20th century—1905 to be exact—the above words in Murder At The Keyhaven Castle by Clara McKenna hold heavy weight when Stella Kendrick still wants to get married after a murder has occurred during an outing with her friends and family. Then again, Stella has never been one for convention and following the rules of decorum.
In this historical fiction murder mystery, there is a lot of unconventional happening—from crudeness, theft, fraud, attempted murder, and a very personal killing. Yet this writer manages to make this story also feel charming and romantic at the same time as scandalous.
Stella is the daughter of a very rich American father who made his fortune in the racehorse business. He brings Stella to England’s New Forest region to marry the Viscount Lyndy Lyndhurst so he can now have prestige as well as money. The Viscount’s family has prestige but are out of money. As Stella sees it, he is selling her into this family.
However, Stella and Lyndy have formed a bond as the children of deplorable parents as Lyndy’s mother still looks down on Stella despite her money saving their land. They actually are looking forward to their wedding.
Everything starts to go wrong a few days before the nuptials when Stella and her father travel to meet their American friends coming to England for the wedding. Travelling in a newly acquired horse drawn carriage, once owned by Queen Victoria, they and their guests are stunned when another horse drawn carriage gets out of control and a man is trampled to death.
When the police investigate the accident they find a newspaper clipping in the dead man’s coat about Stella’s wedding. As no one seems to know this man it is all very suspicious. Then when Stella gets home her father’s brother and his young children are waiting for them. Her uncle was not invited to the wedding as her father considers him a “poor” relation and they have had a falling out. Within minutes the two men are brawling on the Viscount’s very expensive carpet.
Trying to keep the peace an outing to Keyhaven Castle is arranged as it is the oldest and most famous castle in the area. By the end of the day one of them is dead and all of them are suspects.
In between the murder investigation there is fraudulent horse trading, pick pocketing of a gun and some more hidden relatives getting ready to show up. There are a lot of players but as the story unfolds the major characters are in the forefront and I did not trust any of them except Stella and Lyndy.
I also did not realize that this book was the third in a series starring Stella and Lyndy. It is definitely a standalone. I was never confused about what was going on but now I want to go back and read the first two novels in the series. I am sure there will be a fourth as this couple are very entertaining together.
The writing was keenly on point for the period. I was truly transported to the English countryside of 1905 and could envision the castles, feel the satiny fabrics and even taste the cook’s sweet desserts.
Murder at Keyhaven Castle is like reading a Masterpiece Theater script. It wasn’t just about murder. It was a period piece, and if you enjoy grand castles, elaborate gowns, uppity royalty, devious killers, and a bit of respectable romance I highly recommend this novel.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.