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Murder at Mullings

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In its 300-year history, there has never once been a scandal at Mullings, ancestral home of the decent but dull Stodmarsh family. Until, that is, Edward Stodmarsh makes an ill-advised second marriage to the scheming Regina Stapleton, who insists on bringing her family's 'ornamental hermit' to live on the estate. Suddenly everyone wants to visit Mullings to glimpse this mys In its 300-year history, there has never once been a scandal at Mullings, ancestral home of the decent but dull Stodmarsh family. Until, that is, Edward Stodmarsh makes an ill-advised second marriage to the scheming Regina Stapleton, who insists on bringing her family's 'ornamental hermit' to live on the estate. Suddenly everyone wants to visit Mullings to glimpse this mysterious figure. Strange but harmless, thinks Florence Norris, the family's longstanding housekeeper. But events take a sinister turn with the arrival of sudden, violent death - and suddenly the hermit doesn't seem so harmless after all.


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In its 300-year history, there has never once been a scandal at Mullings, ancestral home of the decent but dull Stodmarsh family. Until, that is, Edward Stodmarsh makes an ill-advised second marriage to the scheming Regina Stapleton, who insists on bringing her family's 'ornamental hermit' to live on the estate. Suddenly everyone wants to visit Mullings to glimpse this mys In its 300-year history, there has never once been a scandal at Mullings, ancestral home of the decent but dull Stodmarsh family. Until, that is, Edward Stodmarsh makes an ill-advised second marriage to the scheming Regina Stapleton, who insists on bringing her family's 'ornamental hermit' to live on the estate. Suddenly everyone wants to visit Mullings to glimpse this mysterious figure. Strange but harmless, thinks Florence Norris, the family's longstanding housekeeper. But events take a sinister turn with the arrival of sudden, violent death - and suddenly the hermit doesn't seem so harmless after all.

30 review for Murder at Mullings

  1. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell is a 2014 Severn House publication. If you have read Dorothy Cannell’s “Ellie Haskell” cozy mystery series, you know they can be laugh out loud funny. So, I must confess that when I checked this book out of the library, I didn’t bother reading the synopsis. I just saw the author’s name and realized I had not read one of her books in quite a while, and snapped it up thinking it was a ‘Haskell’ mystery. Well, as it turns out this is the first book in the ‘Flor Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell is a 2014 Severn House publication. If you have read Dorothy Cannell’s “Ellie Haskell” cozy mystery series, you know they can be laugh out loud funny. So, I must confess that when I checked this book out of the library, I didn’t bother reading the synopsis. I just saw the author’s name and realized I had not read one of her books in quite a while, and snapped it up thinking it was a ‘Haskell’ mystery. Well, as it turns out this is the first book in the ‘Florence Norris’ mystery series, which I didn't even know existed, and by comparison it’s quite different from I'm used to from this author. However, once I adjusted my mindset a bit, and drew accustomed to the slower pacing, I found myself relaxing into it, catching on to the rhythm, becoming acquainted with the characters and their various backgrounds, eccentricities and problems, and becoming slowly wrapped up in the quaint British community of Dovecote Hatch and the goings on at Mullings Manor. However, I did begin to wonder if I had gotten the wrong genre. This is a historical novel, but was also supposed to be a mystery. Was I mistaken? No, but the murder, when it does finally occur, is quite understated, and the story carries on without a blip, moving on to more complex developments. But, my patience was eventually rewarded late in the book when the mystery finally cemented itself and a little sleuthing took place. While I did like the charming atmosphere and the drama, I’m afraid the story needs to be a little more exciting. The dialogue is often uninteresting except when there is a little gossip to share, and Florence, while she is painted as a very nice dedicated worker, and a positive influence on young Ned, she’s a little flat, without much personality. I have already checked out the second book in the series, just to be fair, in hopes that the pacing will pick up and the characters might develop a little further. I do love British mysteries and am especially fond of historical ones. I had hoped I might have accidentally stumbled across a gem, but at this time, I’m only cautiously optimistic about the series. We’ll see how I feel after completing the next installment. 3 stars

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    She saw that her world had narrowed through the years and there was no room in it for herself. This book was wonderful! Granted, I went into it expecting that it was going to be horrible. My friend handed it to me, saying: "This is so boring. Good luck getting through it." o.O And the book IS dense. It is a dense type of writing style, that perhaps doesn't suit everyone's taste. Not only is it dense, but Cannell is completely free and easy with moving forward 10 years in a single sentence. By the ag She saw that her world had narrowed through the years and there was no room in it for herself. This book was wonderful! Granted, I went into it expecting that it was going to be horrible. My friend handed it to me, saying: "This is so boring. Good luck getting through it." o.O And the book IS dense. It is a dense type of writing style, that perhaps doesn't suit everyone's taste. Not only is it dense, but Cannell is completely free and easy with moving forward 10 years in a single sentence. By the age of twenty-four Florie was head housemaid and had gained sufficient assurance of being liked and respected at Mullings to no longer feel the need to conceal the fact that much of her free time was spent reading. In the previous sentence she was 14! We're smack-dab in the middle of Chapter One! And Cannell does stuff like this throughout the book. On one page, one single page, the MC is married, spends years with her husband, and then is widowed. Again, this is Chapter One, so I'm not spoiling anything. But I knew the book was wonderful when I stayed up all night reading it - thinking "just one more page... just one more chapter..." unable to put it down until I was quite finished. This doesn't happen to me very often - and when it does, I sit up and take notice. Florence is a 14-year-old girl when she goes to live at the big house Mullings to work as a servant. She gets along great with everyone there - even the Lord and Lady of the manor - and although she retires when she meets her husband. After his untimely death in World War I she is happy to fill an opening at the manor once again and resume her place as head housekeeper. She is a beloved favorite and trusted confidante of the young Master Ned and a source of love and trust for most people in the household. She even starts keeping company with the kind, compassionate man who owns the local tavern: George. He was a balding, ruddy-faced man of vast height, with a personality as expansive as his stomach, which portion of his anatomy spoke volumes for his belief in good, honest English grub. But when Lady Stodmarsh, an invalid, dies in the night, Florence refuses to believe that the death was a natural one. Convinced that Lady Stodmarsh has been murdered, Florence keeps her suspicions to herself - cutting off George and everyone else in her life - trying to figure out who in the grand household is a murderer. ... It seems popular nowadays to compare historical mysteries to Downton Abbey. The last time this happened - when I was reading the Dandy Gilver series by Catriona McPherson - the advertising was false. While I thought McPherson's series was overall a good and entertaining one, it was in no way "like Downton Abbey," except for the fact that they took place in the same time period. This book, however, fits the bill. This book is very reminiscent of "Downton Abbey" or "Upstairs, Downstairs" and the like. If you want to read a Downton Abbey murder mystery book, this is your jam. ... The foreshadowing in this book is about as subtle as an anvil to the head. o.O Cannell is always writing stuff like: "But what possible harm can she do us?" "None, I suppose, unless her bitterness should one day align itself with some unforeseen circumstance." Lady Stodmarsh shivered, and then smiled. "I cannot lay claim to being fey, as I understand Mrs. McDonald does, and it is well documented that in all these hundreds of years nothing in the way of melodrama has ever touched Mullings. So silly, that feeling that a goose has just walked over my grave." *facepalm* Do you see what I mean? You might as well scrawl in crayon "SOMETHING BAD IS GOING TO HAPPEN!" This happens numerous, numerous times in the book. Subtle Cannell is not. o.O And do you see what I mean about the writing style? Everyone talks like this. If you think that's horrific, then stay away! However, once I got into the groove of the book, I hardly noticed this dense and wordy writing style because they story is very gripping and you are transported into 1930s Britain. ... Another thing that I want to mention is that both Florence and her would-be-love, George, are sometimes infuriatingly stupid. Not regarding the mystery or clues or piecing stuff together! But involving each other and their relationship. I was strongly rooting for these two to get together and they kept INVENTING reasons to stay away from each other which were as frustrating as they were inane. If you are easily upset by characters who are social morons when it comes to the opposite sex, this book might push your buttons. o.O ... The book doesn't have much humor. There are only about two "jokes" or funny parts in the novel - one worked and made me laugh and the other was an abject failure. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say comedy is not Ms. Cannell's strongest suit. Don't expect a lot of laughs from this one - although I don't know if you generally expect a murder mystery to be funny. o.O ... As for the mystery - it's great! Easily the strongest part of the book, and since that's the bulk of the book, it's a huge strength. The mystery IS solvable (I guessed correctly who committed the murder 32% of the way through) and that is a huge plus to me. I like when the murder is solvable by the reader. I mean, you may solve it correctly or you may guess the wrong person - but at least you have a chance. I tend not to enjoy murder mysteries as much when the murderer is someone completely out of left field that you were never introduced to. You have rather a closed circuit here - you know it was someone in the manor. So you just have to narrow it down from the list of the family and servants who live at Mullings. I like this. The mystery is slow-burning and exciting. I like the (incredibly long) timeframe and how slowly and carefully Florence (and you, the reader) piece things together. If you like a faster-paced mystery, look elsewhere. I thought Cannell did an amazing job on characterization. You really got an idea of who everyone in the household was and what was motivating them. These are fleshed-out, human characters. The dialogue was also fun, once you get used to the dense style and old slang. The book is very well-written and completely immersive - I was sucked into this world. ... Tl;dr - Thick, complex, with a slow-burn that is tantalizingly effective, this mystery knocked my socks off! I was completely immersed and addicted by the end of Chapter Three - which led to me staying up all night to finish this. Deep, rich atmosphere and setting; complex and fully-formed characters; and thick, old-fashioned dialogue - this book was a delight on many levels. Although the (very light, very polite) love subplot was insanely frustrating, the main focus of the book (the murder mystery) was addicting. I would recommend this and I will definitely pick up the next in the series when it is released.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    This is the first novel in a proposed series, featuring Florence Norris, who begins her working life as a kitchen maid at Mullings in 1900 when she is just 14 and returns as housekeeper at the age of 35 after the death of her husband in the first world war. As this is the first book, there is much in the way of describing the people and the place where Florence lives, as well as her background and family. Also, obviously, the family who live at Mullings themselves - Lord and Lady Stodmarsh, Ned, This is the first novel in a proposed series, featuring Florence Norris, who begins her working life as a kitchen maid at Mullings in 1900 when she is just 14 and returns as housekeeper at the age of 35 after the death of her husband in the first world war. As this is the first book, there is much in the way of describing the people and the place where Florence lives, as well as her background and family. Also, obviously, the family who live at Mullings themselves - Lord and Lady Stodmarsh, Ned, the orphaned child of their eldest son ,and their youngest son, William and his wife. Murder at Mullings is an unusual novel in that the storyline takes place over several years. It does almost begin with a suspected murder, but it remains as just that – suspected. However, this murder creates a vacuum in the storyline, and the family, which allow for momentous changes to occur, which eventually leads to a further death and the investigation of a crime. This book is very much in the tradition of the Golden Age detective novels. Much of the fun is in the characters and the puzzle and you have to put aside reality and accept that just about everyone who appears are related to events in some way. Some of the characters appear to be stereotypical and, sadly, the author does not always introduce some of those who seem to offer much appeal and humour (the delightfully named Reverend Pimcrisp for example), but possibly she is keeping them for future books. However, there are some great characters – including sensible Florence herself and the kindly widower who becomes the new pub landlord, George Bird. There are anonymous notes, embittered relatives reliant on others for their keep, criminals on the run, unfortunate love affairs and, of course, an ornamental hermit... Overall, if you enjoy murder mysteries in country houses, very much in the cosy style, and with a historical background, then you should enjoy this. I very much look forward to the second book in this series, where the author can hopefully spend less time on setting the scene and move the action on just a little more quickly. She has created a very interesting set of characters and I hope that Florence is given the chance to solve more crimes in the future. I received a copy of this book from the publishers, via NetGalley, for review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Redfern

    3.5 stars I'm a big fan of Ms. Cannell's Ellie Haskell series so I think I went into this with expectations that didn't match the period atmosphere of this book. When young Florence Norris returns to work at the Stodmarsh home after being widowed, she becomes housekeeper and more involved in the family issues. When Lady Stodmarsh dies after years of ill health, Florrie has her suspicions about the death but keeps them to herself. Unfortunately, over the years more deaths occur and Florrie is ins 3.5 stars I'm a big fan of Ms. Cannell's Ellie Haskell series so I think I went into this with expectations that didn't match the period atmosphere of this book. When young Florence Norris returns to work at the Stodmarsh home after being widowed, she becomes housekeeper and more involved in the family issues. When Lady Stodmarsh dies after years of ill health, Florrie has her suspicions about the death but keeps them to herself. Unfortunately, over the years more deaths occur and Florrie is instrumental in bringing the culprit to justice. I enjoyed this book but found parts of it a little confusing because there is so much going on throughout the book. The writing style is appropriate for the time period as it seems a little formal. Florrie is an interesting character and her nurturing relationship with the young heir of the house is a constant through the entire book and plays into the ending of the book. It is my understanding that this might be the first in a series. I will be interested to see where this character goes.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Damaskcat

    Florence goes into service at Mullings when she is fourteen. She enjoys working there but leaves when she marries Robert Norris whose family run the estate’s home farm. When Robert is killed in World War I Florence returns to Mullings as housekeeper. When Lady Stodmarsh dies unexpectedly Florence believes she could have been murdered but doesn’t have enough evidence to tell anyone else of her suspicions. The widowed Lord Stodmarsh remarries and it is soon clear his new wife Regina is going to up Florence goes into service at Mullings when she is fourteen. She enjoys working there but leaves when she marries Robert Norris whose family run the estate’s home farm. When Robert is killed in World War I Florence returns to Mullings as housekeeper. When Lady Stodmarsh dies unexpectedly Florence believes she could have been murdered but doesn’t have enough evidence to tell anyone else of her suspicions. The widowed Lord Stodmarsh remarries and it is soon clear his new wife Regina is going to upset the household. I enjoyed this interesting mystery with its view of country house living from the below stairs staff. Florence Norris is a well-drawn and believable character and I found I wanted things to work out for her. I thought the interactions between the residents of Mullings were very well done and I could believe in the arguments and friction between the ill-assorted people. I thought the plot was complex and I didn’t work out what was going on until close to the end. I hope the author is going to write more mysteries featuring Florence Norris. I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Judy Lesley

    This mystery novel is set in the English country house of Mullings in the village of Dovecote Hatch in 1929 and the early 1930s. It reminded me very much of a mystery version of Upstairs, Downstairs since the principal characters are Florence Norris, housekeeper, and Edward Stodmarsh, grandson of the present owner of Mullings. Most of the other servants and all the extended members of the Stodmarsh family play prominent roles in this folksy, homey type mystery novel. Because this is the first no This mystery novel is set in the English country house of Mullings in the village of Dovecote Hatch in 1929 and the early 1930s. It reminded me very much of a mystery version of Upstairs, Downstairs since the principal characters are Florence Norris, housekeeper, and Edward Stodmarsh, grandson of the present owner of Mullings. Most of the other servants and all the extended members of the Stodmarsh family play prominent roles in this folksy, homey type mystery novel. Because this is the first novel in a new series there is a lot of information concerning the inhabitants of Mullings as well as the village, with backstory filling in a lot of detail. The story does not move quickly until the ending, but I did get a sense of having learned a great deal about the characters and that was an important aspect when it came to understanding the motive for the crime. There is almost a playful feeling written into the novel, an amusing sense which made me think it was almost tongue-in-cheek regarding the typical country house English mystery. I don't know if this is the usual style of this novelist. The characters in this novel tend to be a little more stereotyped than I would like, but it was very easy to either like or dislike them. The stark contrast of good vs. bad made deciding who the culprit was somewhat easy to do in spite of red herrings littering the pages. Also, I would have liked for there to be more detailed definition given so I could easily tell the novel was set in the 1930 time period. Except for several times when the year was actually spelled out I felt the novel could easily have been set any time after World War I and before the boom in electronic technology. And yet, even having made these statements I have to say I did enjoy reading this novel. I have not read any other books by Dorothy Cannell so this one has piqued my interest enough to send me to the pages of Amazon.com to check out what else is available that I might be interested in. There is much to choose from and I am glad to add this author to my list for reading. I received this novel as an ARC through NetGalley. The opinions expressed are my own.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Superquest

    Dorothy Cannell is a favorite author -- I think I've read all of her novels. This one was a bit of a disappointment. I liked what she was trying to do -- the period mystery / romance, but for some reason I got impatient with it -- halfway through I starting skimming. Dorothy Cannell is a favorite author -- I think I've read all of her novels. This one was a bit of a disappointment. I liked what she was trying to do -- the period mystery / romance, but for some reason I got impatient with it -- halfway through I starting skimming.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ionia

    For a book with Murder in the title, this certainly doesn't start out as one would expect--and I thought that made it stand out from the crowd of other similar books. This book is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. The characters (there are a lot of introductions so, easily confused or distracted readers beware) are very well thought out and penned. I liked the mix of personalities in this story. The main character is portrayed over many years, and it was interesting to watch her grow and b For a book with Murder in the title, this certainly doesn't start out as one would expect--and I thought that made it stand out from the crowd of other similar books. This book is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. The characters (there are a lot of introductions so, easily confused or distracted readers beware) are very well thought out and penned. I liked the mix of personalities in this story. The main character is portrayed over many years, and it was interesting to watch her grow and become someone different and wiser from when we first met her. The plot is complex and kept me interested. One of the main things I liked about this book was the style in which it was written. The author did such a good job of writing it in keeping with the language of the period it was set in that I had to remind myself this was a contemporary effort. A cozy type of historical mystery, this book will have something to offer just about anyone who picks it up. It will be interesting to see if this turns into a series. I'm hoping it will. This review is based on a complimentary copy from Netgalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linda Bridges

    Florence Norris came to work at Mullings as a young girl and has returned following to the death of her husband to become the housekeeper. Although she had supposed a house like Mullings to harbor at least a few secrets when she first went to work there, she soon discovered that life was boringly normal in the house. That is not the case when she returns as housekeeper. With an intense attachment to young Ned Stodmarsh, the grandson of the owner, Florence is loath to report her suspicions to po Florence Norris came to work at Mullings as a young girl and has returned following to the death of her husband to become the housekeeper. Although she had supposed a house like Mullings to harbor at least a few secrets when she first went to work there, she soon discovered that life was boringly normal in the house. That is not the case when she returns as housekeeper. With an intense attachment to young Ned Stodmarsh, the grandson of the owner, Florence is loath to report her suspicions to police following a murder that takes place, fearing that Ned will be blamed. When another murder occurs years later, the truth finally comes into the open. Much to my surprise, I found this book to be extremely entertaining with an interesting array of characters and a tightly woven plot. I look forward to the next adventure of Florence and her beau, George Bird.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    One has to look at the date of publication of this book. It feels so 1920's, 1930's but it is a modern book! Unusual deaths occur in the Stodmarsh house, Mullings, in (where else) early 20th century England. Florence is the head housekeeper and has been an employee of the Stodmarsh family for many years. She is the one who suspects foul play but she is not investigator in the true sense. Actually it is a police officer who solves the crime but we do get to know Florence quite well. It will be int One has to look at the date of publication of this book. It feels so 1920's, 1930's but it is a modern book! Unusual deaths occur in the Stodmarsh house, Mullings, in (where else) early 20th century England. Florence is the head housekeeper and has been an employee of the Stodmarsh family for many years. She is the one who suspects foul play but she is not investigator in the true sense. Actually it is a police officer who solves the crime but we do get to know Florence quite well. It will be interesting to follow any future books

  11. 5 out of 5

    Arlene

    Dorothy Cannell is a favorite writer of mine. I was excited to see she had written a "new" book featuring the Mullings Estate housekeeper, Florence Norris. While the story was good and the plot had many twists and turns, it was slow going reading this mystery. The writing was excellent and the characters well developed but it just seemed to lack something in my opinion. If she writes another book in this series, I would give it a try. Dorothy Cannell is a favorite writer of mine. I was excited to see she had written a "new" book featuring the Mullings Estate housekeeper, Florence Norris. While the story was good and the plot had many twists and turns, it was slow going reading this mystery. The writing was excellent and the characters well developed but it just seemed to lack something in my opinion. If she writes another book in this series, I would give it a try.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sharla

    This was a very enjoyable cozy mystery. It did start slowly. The first couple of chapters were a bit of a slog but it picked up nicely after that. I have loved Dorothy Cannell's series featuring Ellie Haskell. They are packed with zany characters and madcap adventures. This book is more of a serious affair but still good if you like this type of English country house mystery. This was a very enjoyable cozy mystery. It did start slowly. The first couple of chapters were a bit of a slog but it picked up nicely after that. I have loved Dorothy Cannell's series featuring Ellie Haskell. They are packed with zany characters and madcap adventures. This book is more of a serious affair but still good if you like this type of English country house mystery.

  13. 5 out of 5

    ☆Ruth☆

    A very patchy book - there were parts that were reasonably well-written and flowed smoothly; there were also parts that were amateurish and poorly constructed. I'm not sure if it was a 'first' book but that's what it felt like. I think the author has potential and a good editor would have made a huge difference to this book. A very patchy book - there were parts that were reasonably well-written and flowed smoothly; there were also parts that were amateurish and poorly constructed. I'm not sure if it was a 'first' book but that's what it felt like. I think the author has potential and a good editor would have made a huge difference to this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I really liked The Thin Woman series. Here she's trying to spread her wings, but this style is just not her. It seemed like she had to work too hard to do it. She's a good story teller, but I like it when she stays with her own voice. I really liked The Thin Woman series. Here she's trying to spread her wings, but this style is just not her. It seemed like she had to work too hard to do it. She's a good story teller, but I like it when she stays with her own voice.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    The dialog is extremely stilted, nothing happens, and yet it goes on and on.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Razee

    What a wonderful book! I love the timeline it was set on, the way it was written, how succinct the first few pages on florie's life were. I read this at one go and can't wait to read others in the series. The one fault I would find is that like in many other novels, Florie can hardly be acknowledged as the hero. She's certainly doing her part but is a little flat on personality and mostly everyone was coming together to solve the mystery and not her alone. Apart from that, this is one book that I What a wonderful book! I love the timeline it was set on, the way it was written, how succinct the first few pages on florie's life were. I read this at one go and can't wait to read others in the series. The one fault I would find is that like in many other novels, Florie can hardly be acknowledged as the hero. She's certainly doing her part but is a little flat on personality and mostly everyone was coming together to solve the mystery and not her alone. Apart from that, this is one book that I will be buying because I loved it so much and will be picking up again when it rains and I need a cosy book to read!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mina De Caro (Mina's Bookshelf)

    Read this and other reviews on MINA'S BOOKSHELF http://minadecaro.blogspot.com/2014/0... Turn of the century England -- When fourteen-year-old Florence Norris first arrived at Mullings to work as a kitchen maid, she was to discover that, despite the serene splendor of velvet lawns, formal gardens, expansive waterfalls and productive home farm, the house of Dovecote Hatch wasn't a world populated by heroes and heroines. A voracious reader of adventurous fantasies, Florrie's vivid imagination had b Read this and other reviews on MINA'S BOOKSHELF http://minadecaro.blogspot.com/2014/0... Turn of the century England -- When fourteen-year-old Florence Norris first arrived at Mullings to work as a kitchen maid, she was to discover that, despite the serene splendor of velvet lawns, formal gardens, expansive waterfalls and productive home farm, the house of Dovecote Hatch wasn't a world populated by heroes and heroines. A voracious reader of adventurous fantasies, Florrie's vivid imagination had been immediately transported, by the grandeur of that countryside estate, in one of those books of fiction she avidly consumed till the wee hours of the night, but the neighboring gentry's gossips soon woke her up to a much different reality: the Stodmarsh, owners for generations of that idyllic estate, were hereditarily a dull lot of people. No scandals of unfaithful wives, or tales of forbidden loves had ever happened within the walls of Dovecote Hatch. No legends of insane relatives locked in its turrets, or duels fought in the first lights of down. Lacking the kind of charm and wit common among those sons and heirs who sowed wild oats before settling down in perfectly arranged marriages, the Stodmarsh had never done anything to bring dishonor on their name. That is until the 1930s, when a thirty five year old and widowed Florence returned to the estate as a housekeeper. The mysterious death of Lady Stodmarsh and Lord Edward's decision to have a second go at marital bliss with Regina Stapleton will irrevocably change that peaceful estate. Lady Stapleton's arrival in the village, along with her eccentric family hermit, stirs a series of ripples that thrust centuries of Stodmarsh shallow waters into dangerous sea changes. The temptation to have a taste of "Downton Abbey-ish" glamour right at my fingertips (the period drama will resume only in January here in the US) was too strong to resist. Although not familiar at all with the author Dorothy Cannell and her previous work, I sank my teeth in her mystery novel without hesitation: my expectations in terms of Edwardian England historical setting, cozy mystery flair, vivid account of upstairs/downstairs social dynamics, language authenticity, and atmospheric descriptions were not disappointed. However, I believe the novel is afflicted by all the picadillos typical of prequels: as Ms. Cannell clearly intended Murder At Mullings to be the first installment of a mystery series featuring housekeeper sleuth Florence Norris, a streamlined narrative is not the strength of the book. In the attempt to lay the ground work for a continuation of the series, the author introduces a hoard of characters, each with its own colorful peculiarities, overcrowding the narration with background information, supporting cast that pops in and out, interactions and dialogues that do not really work towards the main scheme of things. The flow of events was too bumpy and uneven to keep me focused on the plot and this is what had me scratch a couple of stars from the my final rating. What prevented me from losing my interest entirely was the rich texture of some of the passages, the historical authenticity of language and scene setting, the elegant descriptions of the estate, the delicate romance between Florence and kind widower George Bird. Overall, I didn't find in the narrative enough appeal to sustain my interest in future installments.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I have mixed feelings about Murder at Mullings. I liked the concept (“In its 300-year history, there has never once been a scandal at Mullings, ancestral home of the decent but dull Stodmarsh family. Until 1932, that is….”). But the book moved so slowly for me. Sooooo slowly. I had a very hard time sticking with it. It was very wordy, and with so little character development I had difficulty keeping everyone straight. The first 10 pages of the book could easily have been a novel in themselves, a I have mixed feelings about Murder at Mullings. I liked the concept (“In its 300-year history, there has never once been a scandal at Mullings, ancestral home of the decent but dull Stodmarsh family. Until 1932, that is….”). But the book moved so slowly for me. Sooooo slowly. I had a very hard time sticking with it. It was very wordy, and with so little character development I had difficulty keeping everyone straight. The first 10 pages of the book could easily have been a novel in themselves, as they cover 21 years in the life of housekeeper Florence Norris. I don’t mind a slow-moving plot when character development is the focus, but this is the first book I can recall where plot was sacrificed for setting and manners. This book felt more like a long-winded proposal for a television series than a novel. Even the way the characters were described seemed like guidance for the person casting the series (for example, Inspector LeCrane: “He was tall, with a narrow face dominated by a long, beaky nose, which would have done the suggested species of bird proud. Ned put him in his mid- to –late-forties. No visible gray in his dark hair.” (p. 212)). I found the first 150 pages of this 247 page book to be set-up for the final 100 pages. There are two murders in the book, set several years apart. An ornamental hermit is thrown at us as a red herring and for a bit of period eccentricity, but the murderer was not difficult to guess. I kept reading because I kept thinking a book I would enjoy was in there someone, and I got it at last in the final 40 pages. I would rate most of the book two stars, and the last 40 pages four stars. I’ve not seen Downton Abbey, but Murder at Mullings is clearly aimed directly at the fans of that series. If you like slow moving fiction covering a 40-year-span that is more focused on the setting and manners than the plot or characters, you might enjoy this book. This is the first book in a series; the second is due to be published in July 2015.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Lanahan

    I read most of the Thin Woman series (at the behest of my librarian wife) and enjoyed them. This book is a departure from that contemporary series. I assume that it is her homage to the classic English country house murder mysteries. It takes place in the 20's and 30's, in a small village with a benevolent but dull lord. His sickly wife dies somewhat unexpectedly, but not overly suspiciously. He remarries, dies of natural causes, but his new wife is actually murdered. Whodunnit? If you like myst I read most of the Thin Woman series (at the behest of my librarian wife) and enjoyed them. This book is a departure from that contemporary series. I assume that it is her homage to the classic English country house murder mysteries. It takes place in the 20's and 30's, in a small village with a benevolent but dull lord. His sickly wife dies somewhat unexpectedly, but not overly suspiciously. He remarries, dies of natural causes, but his new wife is actually murdered. Whodunnit? If you like mysteries with a strong central character who doggedly solves crimes, this is not a book for you. Florence Norris is no Jane Marple. She is strong in many ways, but knows her place and doesn't make a fuss. When she suspects foul play, she doesn't act on it in order not to bring scandal on her employer's family. As a matter of fact, she doesn't even do a lot of sleuthing. She occasionally writes down her observations, then hides them in a pillow. The pace of the book is slow, spanning years. We meet characters early, just to get a feel for them, then skip ahead a decade or two to see all of them still at their stations. Then we skip ahead a year, then one or two more. The prose is deep, full of description of people and places, with long looks into what the characters are thinking. Cannell explores the lives of ordinary characters and manages to make them interesting. The murder of the title doesn't take place until the end of the book, when several plot lines all converge, and the case is wrapped up quickly without a lot of action; again, not typical. This book is a loving homage to the period, written in the wordy style of the time. The murder is not nearly as important to the story as the characters, which is unusual these days. It requires a little concentration because the important parts of the story are buried in a lot of words, and it is easy to forget what happened because you skimmed over that page.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Florence Norris has worked for Lord and Lady Stodmarsh for many years, starting as a kitchen maid and later becoming a housekeeper after her husband is killed in the war. Although Lady Stodmarsh suffers from severe rheumatism, the family’s shocked when she suddenly dies the same night she was trying to tell Florence something that had been troubling her. Florence has reason to suspect that Lady Stodmarsh was murdered but as it’s only suspicion she keeps this to herself. When Lord Stodmarsh remar Florence Norris has worked for Lord and Lady Stodmarsh for many years, starting as a kitchen maid and later becoming a housekeeper after her husband is killed in the war. Although Lady Stodmarsh suffers from severe rheumatism, the family’s shocked when she suddenly dies the same night she was trying to tell Florence something that had been troubling her. Florence has reason to suspect that Lady Stodmarsh was murdered but as it’s only suspicion she keeps this to herself. When Lord Stodmarsh remarries a year later, family and household staff quickly realize that he’s made a huge mistake. When the second wife is brutally murdered, it’s only a matter a time before the truth about both deaths are revealed. Described as a 1930 country house murder for those who love Downton Abbey, Murder at Mullings surprised me, as I thought that Florence would take up amateur sleuthing, but she turned out to be much too practical for that. In fact, life goes on over a period of years allowing readers to delve into the family and employees’ lives at Mullings, as well as some of the residents at Dovecote Hatch. For this reason, the book reads more like a novel with elements of mystery. The story’s main focus isn’t on crime solving, and thus lacks the level of tension and suspense that mystery readers might expect. Also, the second murder occurs near the end of the book, so not much crime detection happens. Just a few questions, some helpful info from Florie and then the guilty party is caught. The upside is that the novel offers more developed subplots, but its appeal will depend on your preference. To my surprise, I really liked the story. Florence is a smart woman with a lot of common sense. Most of all, I liked that this book wasn’t quite what I had expected in a mystery.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    Murder at Mullings is the 1st Florence Norris mystery. Mullngs is a 300 year ancestral home of the Stodmarsh family. The Stodmarsh are noted among their peers as being dull and there has never been a whisper of scandal in their family history. Even though their peers do not want to be the Stodmarshs or to socialize with them, Lady and Lord Stodmarsh are decent and kind to all who know them. The book mainly follows Florence Norris who became a head housekeeper at Mullings. She is devouted to her p Murder at Mullings is the 1st Florence Norris mystery. Mullngs is a 300 year ancestral home of the Stodmarsh family. The Stodmarsh are noted among their peers as being dull and there has never been a whisper of scandal in their family history. Even though their peers do not want to be the Stodmarshs or to socialize with them, Lady and Lord Stodmarsh are decent and kind to all who know them. The book mainly follows Florence Norris who became a head housekeeper at Mullings. She is devouted to her position and to the Stodmarsh family. She is very fond of the Stodmarsh's grandson who lost his parents in a accident. A death occurs at Mullings and Florence has her suspicions that it was murder. However, the death was determined to be a natural death. Years go by and a new marriage takes place that changes the life at Mullings. Murder is committed again but it happens at the end of the book and is investigated and solved by the police. I have mixed feelings about the book. I liked the substantial content and complex mystery. I could see the author's humor at times peek through. I liked some of the characters a lot especially Florence Norris and George Bird. I liked the atmospheric ancestral location. The only drawback for me was the leisurely pacing of the book. At times, I really enjoyed settling back and being taken along with the story. At other times, it just seems so slow that I started to lose interest. Then something new would happen and my interest would be back. This is the first Dorothy Cannell book that I have read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Florence Norris comes to Mullings & the ancestral home of the Stodmarsh family as a 14 year old girl in 1900 to work as a kitchen maid. She quickly learns that the family history is very staid, some say boring, & that Lord & Lady Stodmarsh are loving & kind. Florence leaves Mullings on her marriage but is lured back to the home as a young widow to act as housekeeper & to care for the young heir Ned, who has been orphaned when his parents are killed in a car accident. Lord & Lady Stodmarsh are st Florence Norris comes to Mullings & the ancestral home of the Stodmarsh family as a 14 year old girl in 1900 to work as a kitchen maid. She quickly learns that the family history is very staid, some say boring, & that Lord & Lady Stodmarsh are loving & kind. Florence leaves Mullings on her marriage but is lured back to the home as a young widow to act as housekeeper & to care for the young heir Ned, who has been orphaned when his parents are killed in a car accident. Lord & Lady Stodmarsh are still a loving couple & are trying to raise their young grandson. The home is also occupied by the blustering William & his retiring wife, who appear to resent that their nephew Ned is the heir apparent, & a young distant relative Madge Bradley, who has been jilted at the alter. The household is rounded out by Ned's other grandmother Mrs. Tressler who is a frequent visitor. The years pass & with it Lady Stodmarsh's health. When she dies unexpectedly Florence believes that she has glimpsed evil in one of the household & that the death is a murder but with no evidence she buries her suspicions & her burgeoning new life. Will Lord Stodmarsh remarry & if he does, Florence wonders, will the murderer strike again? This book is written in the Golden Age of British mystery style & effectively captures the atmosphere of the era. I am hoping to read more stories about Florence & the Stodmarsh family in subsequent books.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. An enjoyable, Agatha-Christie-like mystery. Home of Lord & Lady Stodmarsh, their Grandson, Edward (Ned), orphaned at an early age with the death of his parents (father was the son of the Stodmarshes). Florrie Norris: housekeeper and good friend to Ned Lady Stodmarsh dies unexpectedly, though having been bed-ridden for years by rheumatism. Florrie suspects murder but never tells any one. George owns the Dog & Whistle pub and becomes good friends with Florrie. Lord Stodmarsh remarries the scheming Regi An enjoyable, Agatha-Christie-like mystery. Home of Lord & Lady Stodmarsh, their Grandson, Edward (Ned), orphaned at an early age with the death of his parents (father was the son of the Stodmarshes). Florrie Norris: housekeeper and good friend to Ned Lady Stodmarsh dies unexpectedly, though having been bed-ridden for years by rheumatism. Florrie suspects murder but never tells any one. George owns the Dog & Whistle pub and becomes good friends with Florrie. Lord Stodmarsh remarries the scheming Regina Stapleton (ornamental hermit). When he dies, she's left managing the purse-spurse-strings until Ned turns 27 and inherits his due. Other characters: Miss Bradley (left at the altar and invited to live in the manor by the Lord and Lady), Cyril Fritch: works as a bookeeper for the Stodmarshes and in the local bookstore: his Mother soaks him dry by using every penny to go on trips - Fritch & Bradley get engaged abd it's she who's the murderer: she felt that the Lord should have married her when the LaLady died; Cyril had been embezzling and was going to be found out - killy Regina would hurry up Bradley's inheritance so she could pay back the money that Cyril took.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mayda

    The first in a new series, author Dorothy Cannell does not disappointment her readers with this new protagonist, Florence Norris. Skillfully enlightening us with historical background information of a 300-year manor called Mullings and its inhabitants both upstairs and down, then leading us to its present day family and staff, including Florence, she paints a picture of British aristocracy tainted with unsavory scandal. The characters seem like real people you’d wish to know, from the friendly p The first in a new series, author Dorothy Cannell does not disappointment her readers with this new protagonist, Florence Norris. Skillfully enlightening us with historical background information of a 300-year manor called Mullings and its inhabitants both upstairs and down, then leading us to its present day family and staff, including Florence, she paints a picture of British aristocracy tainted with unsavory scandal. The characters seem like real people you’d wish to know, from the friendly pub-keeper to kindly Florie to affable Lord Stodmarsh, and are placed in a descriptive and lovely setting and woven into an intricate plot clever with twists and scattered with clues concerning the murder. This mystery is pure entertainment from beginning to end. An English cozy of the finest caliber.

  25. 4 out of 5

    April

    This was cute and an homage to some of the old country house mysteries, but I did feel that some of the plot didn't really make sense, given what the reader knows or doesn't know. Florence Norris, a servant in the Big House, thinks her lady may have been murdered. When the lord remarries quickly, she tries to decide whether or not to pursue her suspicions. Meanwhile her friend George has his own problems, as his grandson wants to be an artist and is found in a compromising position near a murder This was cute and an homage to some of the old country house mysteries, but I did feel that some of the plot didn't really make sense, given what the reader knows or doesn't know. Florence Norris, a servant in the Big House, thinks her lady may have been murdered. When the lord remarries quickly, she tries to decide whether or not to pursue her suspicions. Meanwhile her friend George has his own problems, as his grandson wants to be an artist and is found in a compromising position near a murdered body. The new lady of the house turns out to be awful; when her supposedly deceased grandaughter comes to call, things get even worse. Meanwhile, the probability of another death is increasing, though it's never clear why. I think the book's strength lies in the portrayal of the main characters as not perfect but wholly sympathetic and the dramatic portrayal of the events keeps one reading.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I'd give it 2.5 stars if I could. Cannell is certainly a skilled author, but this was a disappointment in many ways. First, it is nothing like the author’s very funny series about Ellie Haskell, which is unfortunate as it could have used some of the humor from those books. Second, it seemed like it rip-off from the characters in a Downton Abbey plot. Third, and most annoying, was the fact that the main protagonist, Florence Norris, suspected the murderer halfway through the book but wouldn’t let I'd give it 2.5 stars if I could. Cannell is certainly a skilled author, but this was a disappointment in many ways. First, it is nothing like the author’s very funny series about Ellie Haskell, which is unfortunate as it could have used some of the humor from those books. Second, it seemed like it rip-off from the characters in a Downton Abbey plot. Third, and most annoying, was the fact that the main protagonist, Florence Norris, suspected the murderer halfway through the book but wouldn’t let the reader know the details of her suspicion. That being said, Cannell does create interesting characters, most particularly Florence Norris. She just needs to lighten up a bit.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jannie

    I love the Ellie Haskell series, so I was interested to read this new book featuring a different lead character. Unfortunately, the pace of this one was WAY to slow. It's not until page 200 that we actually get to see a murder being investigated! Florence Norris is a nice character, but kind of drab and unassuming. She suspects her mistress has been murdered, but says nothing due to lack of evidence. And even though she thinks she knows who did it she does nothing to try and get the proof she ne I love the Ellie Haskell series, so I was interested to read this new book featuring a different lead character. Unfortunately, the pace of this one was WAY to slow. It's not until page 200 that we actually get to see a murder being investigated! Florence Norris is a nice character, but kind of drab and unassuming. She suspects her mistress has been murdered, but says nothing due to lack of evidence. And even though she thinks she knows who did it she does nothing to try and get the proof she needs, just let's her suspect walk around free. Dorothy Cannell 's trademark humor was missing as well. I wanted to like it, but found I had to force myself to finish.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Florie arrives at Mullings as the lowest of kitchenmaids. Despite a short but happy marriage, she ends up as housekeeper, loving the family (well, most of them) as her own. When Lady Stodmarsh dies suddenly, Florie knows that it was murder--but she has no proof, and is reluctant to subject the family to the trauma of an investigation. But when the second Lady Stodmarsh is murdered, what Florie knows must come out. While this has all of Cannell's charm and wit, it covers a long period of time, so Florie arrives at Mullings as the lowest of kitchenmaids. Despite a short but happy marriage, she ends up as housekeeper, loving the family (well, most of them) as her own. When Lady Stodmarsh dies suddenly, Florie knows that it was murder--but she has no proof, and is reluctant to subject the family to the trauma of an investigation. But when the second Lady Stodmarsh is murdered, what Florie knows must come out. While this has all of Cannell's charm and wit, it covers a long period of time, some of it very slowly indeed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Val

    I enjoyed this charming cozy, set in pre-WWII England. Florence Norris is head-housekeeper for a large manse, at which nothing exciting ever happens. That's all about to change. This mystery starts out slowly, but picks up steam the last half so stick with it. Florence Norris is a very likable heroine and there are other above and below stairs characters to add spice and drama to this mystery. There's even an evil ex-nursery maid, intent on spreading viscous rumors. I hope we'll see more of Flor I enjoyed this charming cozy, set in pre-WWII England. Florence Norris is head-housekeeper for a large manse, at which nothing exciting ever happens. That's all about to change. This mystery starts out slowly, but picks up steam the last half so stick with it. Florence Norris is a very likable heroine and there are other above and below stairs characters to add spice and drama to this mystery. There's even an evil ex-nursery maid, intent on spreading viscous rumors. I hope we'll see more of Florie.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hillary

    This one is really interesting, the main murder happens very late in the book, with only a suspicious death and mysterious happenings for most of it. Side character who enters late in the game has some great early century moxie, and the young playboy of the picture has more brains than most give him credit for. It comes down to maybe a locked house mystery, but not quite. Well written, great atmosphere, great build up of the "romance potential" for our main sleuth but a clean cozy all around. Lo This one is really interesting, the main murder happens very late in the book, with only a suspicious death and mysterious happenings for most of it. Side character who enters late in the game has some great early century moxie, and the young playboy of the picture has more brains than most give him credit for. It comes down to maybe a locked house mystery, but not quite. Well written, great atmosphere, great build up of the "romance potential" for our main sleuth but a clean cozy all around. Looking forward to more!

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