Herald of Death
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description from Back Cover:
The Christmas Angel is a welcome sight during the winter season--but not this year. A killer is afoot in Badger's End, cutting a lock of hair from his victims and sticking a gold angel on their foreheads. Cecily Sinclair Baxter already promised her husband that she'd take a hiatus from sleuthing. But three killings have created a blizzard of bad publicity--and guests are canceling their hotel reservations.
Cecily pokes around, but the victims seem unrelated. Then the killer claims a fourth and fifth victim, obviously not slowing down for the holidays--so neither will Cecily. She will have to stop the angel of death from striking again, leaving murder under the tree...
Herald of Death is a historical mystery with a side plot involving romances between several minor characters. The story was set somewhere between 1902 to 1905 in England. This is the thirteenth novel in the series, and it can be read as a stand-alone. However, I don't think this is a good book to introduce a new reader to the series.
While this novel didn't spoil any of the previous mysteries, the character development has clearly been going on and carrying forward since the first book. I felt like I stepped into a party where everyone already knew each other, but I didn't know anyone. I didn't really understand the dynamics of some of the character's relationships.
Also, we're told how clever Cecily is about solving mysteries, but she didn't follow up on obvious clues, didn't dig deeper for the truth, asked simple questions that got her the same information that the police told her, and when the connection between the murders was finally obvious, she still didn't catch on. But I think this was on purpose since Cecily wonders at the end if she's losing her touch since she didn't do those things.
This might be interesting to those who know the brilliant Cecily, but I was...less than impressed. Especially since she acted like a spoiled brat with her husband and deliberately set up her friend to be killed in order to "prove" who the murderer was since she had no actual evidence. She didn't even manage to save her friend, either--a rather impossible event occurred that saved their lives while causing unrealistically minor damage to the whodunit.
The two side romances were clearly ongoing from the previous book and were supposed to add interest, but again it probably was more interesting if you already knew the characters. Only one of the romances was resolved by the end.
The historical setting was very vague with very few historical details given in the story. It wasn't until the end that one detail was given that actually pinned down the time period.
The story has a witch as the friend of Cecily. There was a fair amount of explicit British bad language, and a very minor amount of explicit bad language that would also potentially offend Americans. There was no sex. Overall, fans of the series will probably enjoy another outing with the character's they enjoy, but I'd recommend anyone else start with the first book in the series if the series sounds interesting.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.