08 August 2012

A Twenty-First Century Country House Mystery

Peril in Paperback (A Bibliophile Mystery) by Kate Carlisle (Obsidian mass market paperback, 7 August 2012).

Kate Carlisle has taken one of the most popular traditional mystery conventions,the country house mystery, and made it her own.

Our favorite freelance bookbinder, Brooklyn Wainwright has been invited to a fiftieth birthday party at the home of Grace Crawford.  The aunt of Brooklyn's neighbor Suzie Stein became acquainted with Brooklyn when she'd had some of her books rebound.  Due to Grace's immense and varied collection of valuable books, they'd become friends.

Grace's home, a mansion near Lake Tahoe, had been paid for by her lucrative video game business, and was equipped not only with a conservatory, a ballroom, a game room, a library, numerous bedrooms, and a guesthouse, but with a full staff including chef, bartender, housekeeper and various other domestics.

It's worth mentioning that Grace, a software designer, had the house built to her specifications, resulting in some quirky features. 

Grace's weekend guests number almost a dozen people, including her business partner, her attorney and a couple of the game designers, not all of whom are fans of Grace's.  This results in some interesting interactions and conflicts between members of the group when the house is isolated by a severe snowstorm.  In grand country house tradition, although the power is out, the house has a backup generator.  The roads are impassable, but luckily there are enough provisions for a dozen people for a long weekend.  And of course the storm cripples cell phone service as well.

Carlisle has taken all the elements of a traditional country house mystery and constructed an enjoyable (and for some of us, slightly nostalgic) that hooks the reader from beginning to end. 
My only problem with the book is the lack of a dramatis personae.  Perhaps it's just a poor memory, but I found it difficult to keep track of the characters belonging to the names.

I've always been fond of Brooklyn, and she grows more delightful with every appearance.  It's wonderful to see such a successful, independent, self-employed woman!

*FTC Full Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher, who sent me a copy of the book for review purposes.

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