Monthly Archives: October 2022

Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Loch Down Abbey

Loch Down Abbey by Beth Cowan-Erskine

Loch Down Abbey by  Beth Cowan-Erskine

Amy Caudill‘s review

In a story that combines the social mores of Downton Abbey with the recent panic created by COVID-19, the staff of a noble household must determine if someone killed the head of the family, the Earl, or if it was a tragic accident.  With an entire household of self-involved relatives with numerous secrets of their own, an inept local police Inspector, and a staff largely bedridden with a mysterious plague, Head Housekeeper Mrs. MacBain has her work cut out for her.

In 1930s Scotland, a prominent family is on the verge of collapse.  Their family business is in ruin, not helped by the death of the father or the ascension to the title of his oldest son, Angus, who does nothing all day but hide in the tennis pavilion with his brother-in-law, Hugh. 

The younger son, Fergus, has had a plan to try to save the family fortune, but neither father nor brother listens to him.  After his father’s death, this situation puts him on MacBain’s suspect list, but she cannot find evidence to tie him in.  Of course, there are others with far more motive. 

When the will is read, the Earl’s wife’s Lady’s maid is left a stipend, as is the family ward, whom was rescued from an orphanage.  Why is Iris given the same stipend as the Earl’s younger children?  The more the family try to hide, the more the secrets will come out, thanks to a depleted staff and a number of family children running wild, as well as a desperate search for valuables to sell to save their home.

Meanwhile, the illness is forcing the remaining healthy staff to wear mask and gloves while waiting on the family, and shortages of flour, sugar, and toilet paper created some humorous situations and tantrums from the more entitled residents.

In the end, the mystery is solved, the spoilt occupants of Loch Down Abbey get their just rewards, and the Abbey is sold to begin a new era, with new owners that remain a mystery up to the end of the book.

This book was more of a spoof than an actual mystery, but it was an entertaining read.  I enjoyed the fact that it combined the setting of a period drama with modern day issues and did so while being true to the time period and the behavior of the characters.

I give the story four stars and recommend it to fans of both mysteries and historical fiction.


Amy Caudill’s Reviews : Truly Devious

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious (Truly Devious, #1) by  Maureen Johnson (Goodreads Author)

Amy Caudill‘s review

A decades-old mystery, a young girl who is determined to solve it, and a cast of brilliant but dysfunctional teenagers who may or may not know more than they think-sounds like a good recipe for a book, doesn’t it? 

In the first volume of the series by author Maureen Johnson, Stevie Bell has just been accepted at the elite Ellingham Academy, a school for talented and exceptional teenagers.  One of her classmates is a web star for a series he supposedly wrote, starred in, and produced himself.  One is a bestselling author.  Another is an artist. There are also an engineer, a computer programmer, and Stevie, who studies cold cases and wants to crack the case surrounding the school’s now deceased and mysterious owner.

The book transitions back and forth between the present day and the events in the 1930s, when Albert Ellingham received a note, written as a poem with letters cut from newspapers and magazines, which seemingly foretold of the horrifying fate that befell his wife and young daughter.  Iris and Alice Ellingham, whom we only learn of from the accounts of others, were kidnapped, held for ransom, but never returned to Albert in the isolated mountain top school.

Iris’ body is later found, but of Alice there is no trace but a single shoe.  A major investigation by the FBI ensues, and a suspect is arrested, tried and convicted, but the little girl is never seen again.

In the present day, Stevie sees or perhaps dreams that a new message, in the same style and signed by Truly Devious, appears on her bedroom wall at night.  She is not entirely sure if it is real, but the next day a classmate is found dead.  Stevie finally has her chance to participate in a real investigation instead of simply reading about them, but will she endanger herself, alienate her friends, and destroy her relationship with her maybe boyfriend in the process?

I loved the setting of this book, in an isolated mountainside in upstate Maine.  The grounds of the mansion/school are beautiful, and add to the suspense of the story.  I also enjoyed the premise; a modern-day murder that echoes an older mystery; though there were a few points that irked me on this one.  Even though this is the first book of a quadrilogy, I would have expected at least some resolution by the end of its 420 pages.  The story moves at a slow pace, but at the end of this volume we have only one death and the disappearance of another student who may or may not have been responsible.  The solution to the older mystery, such as it may be, was not even touched on. 

I enjoyed the first book, but I’m not sure I liked it enough to stick with it through three more volumes to for the mysteries to be solved.  That is why I only gave this book three stars.