In Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd, Major Robert Kurland has been lying in bed for months after getting severely injured during the Battle of Waterloo. Dependent upon his butler, Mr. Foley, and valet, Bookman, who served during the war as Robert’s batman (soldier servant to an officer), the major tries to find something to entertain himself out the window. One morning, his regular visitor, Lucy Harrington, the 25-year-old daughter of the rector and childhood playmate of Robert, comes to help entertain him in his lonely sickbed. He tells Lucy that the previous night he saw the figure of someone carrying a big sack and skulking about. Curious about the happenings, he enlists Lucy’s help in trying to solve the riddle, not being physically able to search for himself.
Lucy enjoys her chance to do some discreet poking around Kurland St. Mary because life is really miserable for this spinster (can you imagine being considered a spinster at 25?). Her selfish father has put all the responsibilities of the household on her since the death of Lucy’s mother while giving birth to twin boys a number of years earlier. In doing so, he gave her plenty of responsibility without any authority and seems to expect her to stay his slave for life instead of trying to find a husband and setting up her own establishment. Then Lucy discovers that Mary, her housemaid, has disappeared without waiting for her pay. And soon she learns that another young girl from the village has also disappeared. People assume the girls ran away to London together, but Lucy is still unconvinced. In addition, Kurland St. Mary has had a rash of thefts lately. So is there a connection between the missing girls, the strange midnight goings-on, and the thefts?
I enjoy a good historical mystery, and Death Comes to the Village creates interest, but it didn’t greatly excite me. The plot seems a bit weak. The book spends a significant portion of its time talking about Robert’s recovery from his injury, which has interest but drags out and is not as compelling as it could be. Though the book is historical fiction, it does not have a lot of historical details in it, which disappointed me.
Only the characters of Robert and Lucy come across as well-rounded, We connect with Robert’s difficulties in recovering from his injuries and the emotional challenges he faces after spending nine months in bed. As he begins to wake up to himself and make progress, we cheer him on. And we feel for Lucy as she serves as a type of slave to her father, with all her extra responsibilities and inability to move on with her life because her father doesn’t want his free housekeeper to marry. We appreciate the way Lucy serves to help Robert find himself, and in the process she finds her own self.
Susannah Tyrrell performs the audio edition of this book. She contains a soothing voice, which was suitable for a somewhat slow book like this, though I think she does not fit for mysteries in general. I think her voice is more fitted for less dramatic books than mysteries. However, she does a fine job with this book.
I liked Death Comes to the Village reasonably well, but I wish the events of the conclusion, which was exciting, were foreshadowed better in the major part of the book. Further, I would have liked to see more mystery plot, since much of the book does not deal with the mystery. Then, what mystery it does deal with seems to be so minor. And in addition, I would have liked to see more historical details in a historical fiction mystery. Thus, I give this book three stars.
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