Welcome to my stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison. Please leave a comment or question for Ms. Dennison to let her know you stopped by. One print copy of Ms. Dennison’s book will be given away at this stop on the tour, you can enter by filling out the Rafflecopter form below. My review is running late but will be posted before the end of the weekend.
Murder at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison
Thank you for hosting me on Day Five of my Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for “Murder at Honeychurch Hall. “
This first book in my new series is a murder mystery at heart, but as the pages materialized what also came to the surface was the emotional undercurrent of a mother-daughter relationship that also clearly had a story to tell. My protagonist is former TV celebrity and antique dealer, Kat Stanford who is all set to launch a new business with her newly widowed mother, Iris. But to Kat’s horror, she discovers that Iris has secretly purchased a dilapidated carriage house on a crumbling country estate several hundred miles away from London. Of course, Kat sets off to ‘save’ her mother only to discover that she harbors an even bigger secret. For years, Iris has been secretly writing best-selling, steamy romance novels under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm.
Like many authors, we’re often asked where we find our ideas and to “write what we know” – or at least, “write what we pretend we know.” In this case I was inspired by my own mother’s rash purchase of a wing in a country house in Devon at age 76. When most widows of her advanced years would be heading off to a retirement village, Mum decided that at last she had the freedom to do what she jolly well wanted and there was nothing any of us could do to stop her! She completely reinvented her life and now, at 85, is in robust health, working as a docent at Greenway (Agatha Christie’s summer home) and has never been happier.
Honeychurch Hall itself is based on two privately owned residences in Devon—my mother’s home near Totnes and Hillersdon House in Cullompton which is currently being restored—literally—to it’s former glory. Mike Lloyd, my friend and the new owner, has unearthed the original plans dating from the mid-seventeen hundreds and he’s following them to the letter—putting back the lakes, introducing deer, and sprucing up the grotto and stumpery. The ghosts that make an occasional appearance in Honeychurch Hall are all based on those drifting around Hillersdon House.
An upstairs-downstairs backdrop wouldn’t be complete without a feisty, octogenarian countess, but I also threw in a precocious seven year old who is obsessed with the famous fighter pilot called Biggles. There is a treasure trove of antiques, the occasional haunting and of course, the paparazzi, who are always hungry for celebrity news. When the nanny goes missing and a body is discovered in the grounds of the country estate, suspicion falls on the newcomers … and that’s all I am prepared to tell you!
Thank you for hosting me today.
Murder at Honeychurch Hall
By Hannah Dennison
Publisher: Minotaur Books (An Imprint of Macmillan Books)
Release Date: May 13, 2014
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Length: 304 Pages
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About the book:
In Hannah Dennison's Murder at Honeychurch Hall, Kat Stanford is just days away from starting her dream antique business with her newly widowed mother Iris when she gets a huge shock. Iris has recklessly purchased a dilapidated carriage house at Honeychurch Hall, an isolated country estate located several hundred miles from London.
Yet it seems that Iris isn’t the only one with surprises at Honeychurch Hall. Behind the crumbling facade, the inhabitants of the stately mansion are a lively group of eccentrics to be sure—both upstairs and downstairs —and they all have more than their fair share of skeletons in the closet.
When the nanny goes missing, and Vera, the loyal housekeeper ends up dead in the grotto, suspicions abound. Throw in a feisty, octogenarian countess, a precocious seven year old who is obsessed with the famous fighter pilot called Biggles, and a treasure trove of antiques, and there is more than one motive for murder.
As Iris’s past comes back to haunt her, Kat realizes she hardly knows her mother at all. A when the bodies start piling up, it is up to Kat to unravel the tangled truth behind the murders at Honeychurch Hall.
Excerpt from Chapter One“Mum!” I exclaimed. “Thank God you’ve called. I’ve been so worried.”“I hope you’re not driving, Kat,” chided my mother on the other end of the line.“I am driving,” I said as my VW Golf crawled through the heavy stream of London traffic along the Old Brompton Road. “And don’t change the subject.”“If you’re not wearing a headset, you’ll get a ticket—”“Which is why I am pulling over,” I said. “Do not hang up. Let me stop somewhere.”Mum gave a heavy sigh. “Quickly then. This call is expensive.”I turned into Bolton Place, a quiet residential street divided by two graceful crescents that encircled communal gardens. Spotting a space outside the church of St. Mary’s, I parked and switched off the engine.“Where did you get to last night?” I demanded. “I was about to call out the cavalry.”“You sound tense,” said my mother, deliberately avoiding the question. “Is everything alright with Dylan?”“You know very well my boyfriend is called David,” I said, annoyed that she always knew how to hit a nerve. “God, it’s boiling.” I wound down the window, taking in the heat of a hot August day and the smell of freshly mown grass.“You’re too old to have a boyfriend—”“Man friend, then. And I’m not tense,” I said. “I was concerned when you didn’t come to my leaving party last night. Did you have another migraine?”“No. I was in denial,” said Mum flatly. “I was hoping you weren’t going to go through with giving up Fakes & Treasures.”“I want my life back, Mum. Have you any idea what it’s like to be constantly in the public eye?”“Such a pity,” she went on. “I loved seeing you on the telly. You always looked so nice. Are you sure you’re not making a mistake?”“You sound just like David—”“Oh dear,” said Mum. “In that case, I’m delighted and I’m sorry I didn’t come.”Ignoring the barb, I said, “Good, because I’m delighted that we’re going into business together. Speaking of which, I thought we could look at some properties this weekend.”“That may not be possible—”“And I must show you what I bought at Bonhams saleroom this morning,” I said. “Two boxes of Victorian toys and vintage teddy bears that I got at a bargain price—our first stock items. I can’t wait to show them to you.”There was a long pause.“Did you hear what I said, Mother?”Another even longer pause and then, “I’ve broken my right hand,” she said bluntly.“Oh Mum,” I cried. “Are you okay?”“I am now.”“Why didn’t you tell me?”“I’m telling you now.”“How bad is it?” I said. “Can you cook? Dress yourself?”“With one hand?”“Well, you do have the other one.”“Very funny.”“I’ll drive over straight away,” I said.“What about Dylan? Won’t he mind?”“David is away this weekend.”“Your father wouldn’t like me gadding off without him,” said Mum. “Did you know that we never once spent a night apart in all our fifty years of marriage?”“Yes I did know and it was forty-nine years, not fifty,” I pointed out. “And if you going to be unkind about David, I won’t come.”“When did you say his divorce from that Trudy woman is final? I keep forgetting.”“It’s complicated,” I muttered.“Have you watched Trudy’s new television show?” Mum said, hitting another nerve. “Very amusing—Walk of Shame! Celebrity Family Secrets Revealed.”“Mum … I’m warning you. I do not want to talk about Trudy Wynne,” I said. “Do you want me to come or not?”“Yes, yes,” said Mum wearily. “I do have a little project that needs finishing. Some typing.”“I didn’t know you could type.”“Of course I can type,” said Mum with scorn. “I used Daddy’s Olivetti.”“That’s a collector’s item. I’m surprised you can still buy the ribbon,” I said. “I’ll stop by my place to pick up a few things and should be with you in under an hour.”“I doubt it,” said Mum. “I’ve moved—now, don’t get all cross and silly.”“Moved? Where? When?” I cried. “What about our business plans?”“I’ve changed my mind. What do you need me for anyway?”“The whole idea was that you’d help me run Kat’s Collectibles,” I said, exasperated. “We’d find you a lovely flat above a shop—”“Whilst you moved in with David,” said Mum. “You know your father would never have approved of you living in sin.”“It’s the twenty-first century, Mother,” I said. “And anyway, Dad wanted me to look after you. He didn’t want you to be lonely.”“I’m not lonely.”“When did you make this momentous decision?”“Let me see, about a month ago.”“A month? But …” I was beginning to feel light-headed. “We speak every day. Sometimes two or three times a day.” Then I remembered that recently Mum was always the one ringing me. “I thought I didn’t recognize the phone number. Where are you calling from?”
“My mobile.”“You have a mobile? Seriously?” I said. “And when did you put the house up for sale?”“All these questions,” said Mum. “That nice man who runs the dry cleaners made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”“Mr. Winkleigh?” I gasped. “Dad would never have sold to Mr. Winkleigh. He couldn’t stand him.”“Well, your father’s not here so he won’t find out, will he?”I tried to absorb yet another piece of disturbing information. Even the thought of shopping for groceries would guarantee to bring on one of my mother’s “turns” and yet somehow, she’d managed to move house. “You can’t have done it all by yourself.”“I’m not an invalid, you know,” said Mum.This was rich coming from someone who spent all my school holidays with a migraine lying down in a dark room.“And besides,” she added. “Alfred helped.”“And Alfred is whom? Your Spanish boyfriend?” Nothing would surprise me at this point.“Alfred is hardly a Spanish name, dear. A Spanish name would be Juan or perhaps Pablo,” said Mum mildly. “Alfred is my brother.”I swear I stopped breathing. “I didn’t know you had a brother.”“Well, I do,” said Mum. “As a matter of fact I had two—though Billy’s dead and gone. Aneurysm on Blackpool Pier. He died young. So very sad.”“So I must have cousins. I’d love to have cousins.”“You wouldn’t like them.”“I would like them.” I could feel my temper rising as I remembered envying my friends’ big families, especially at Christmas. I hated being an only child. “Did Dad know you had brothers?”“Of course he knew. He just didn’t like them so we didn’t see them,” said Mum. “Does it matter?”“Actually, it does matter,” I said. “I always thought you and Dad were orphans.”“Really? I wonder why?”“Because that’s what you told me,” I shouted.“Well, never mind all that,” said Mum briskly. “You’d better get cracking if you want to be here in time for tea.”“Wait a moment,” I said. “What did you do with all my things?”“Oxfam,” Mum declared. “And before you throw another wobbly don’t worry—I put all your furry friends in a suitcase. I have it right here—”“And my dressing-up box?” I said, recalling the iron trunk full of dozens of beautifully handmade costumes. Mum had always been very nifty with the needle. “I want my children to have those.”“You’d better get a move on in that department or it will be too late.”“Thanks for reminding me, Mum,” I said.“I was just joking.”But I knew she wasn’t.“Do you have a pencil?” Mum went on. “I’d better give you the address.”“Wait,” I said. “I need something to write on.” I pulled the sale catalogue out of my tote bag and found a pen. “Ready.”“The Carriage House, Honeychurch Hall Estate—”“Honeychurch?” I snorted. “How very Winnie-the-Pooh.”“Don’t snort. It’s so unattractive,” said Mum. “Honeychurch is all one word.” There was a long pause. “Little Dipperton.”“Little what?” I said.“Dipperton, like the Big Dipper only little. With t-o-n on the end.”“Where the hell is Little Dipperton?”“Devon.”“Devon?” I sputtered.“Near Dartmouth. Very pretty little fishing port. You’ll love it. I’ll take you there for a cream tea.”“Devon!” I said again. “That’s over two hundred miles away.”“Yes, I am aware of that. I just moved here.”“But you don’t even like the countryside.”“Your father didn’t but I do,” said my mother cheerfully. “I love the countryside. I’ve always hated city life. Now I wake up to the sound of the birds, the smell of fresh air—”“But … Devon.” I felt dizzy at yet another revelation. “What about Dad’s ashes? I thought we agreed we’d put him in Tooting Crematorium? You’ll never be able to visit him.”“I changed my mind about Tooting Crematorium. He suffered from claustrophobia, you know.”“Mum, he’s in an orange Tupperware container right now,” I exclaimed. “What’s the difference?”“It’s too final.”
I tried a different tack. “What about all your friends?”“Your father worked for HM Revenue & Customs,” said Mum. “We didn’t have friends.”“You don’t even drive.”
“I’ve always been able to drive. I just liked your father driving me.” Mum chuckled. “In fact, I’ve just bought myself a nice MINI Cooper in Chili Red.”“How can you afford a new car? A house—and a grand house by the wound of things—in the country?” Alarm bells began to ring in my head. “How did you hear about this carriage house in the first place?”“I have contacts.”“But you must have viewed it? How? When?”“I don’t have to answer any more questions from you,” Mum said. “I can do what I like.”Another ghastly thought occurred to me. “You’ve spent all of Dad’s money, haven’t you?” There was an ominous silence on the other end of the phone. “He said you would.”“Katherine, there’s something I need to tell you—”“You have spent it!” I exclaimed. “You only call me Katherine when you’re about to give me bad news.”“Does the name Krystalle Storm mean anything to you?”
Thrown for a moment, I said, “No. Why? Who’s she when she’s at home?”
“Critics say she’ll be even bigger than Barbara Cartland.”“Who?”
“The romance writer. Barbara Cartland.”“What’s that got to do with Dad’s money?”“Her books are everywhere. Over half a million sold world-wide,” Mum enthused. “I’m surprised—”“You know I don’t read that kind of rubbish, Mum. What did Dad call it? ‘Penny Dreadfuls for pathetic old ladies,’” I said. “And don’t try to change the subject again.”“Fine,” Mum snapped. “You know what, I don’t think I need your help after all. I can manage on my own.”“Now you’re throwing a wobbly. I’m happy to come. In fact I quite fancy a cream tea.”“No,” said Mum coldly. “I don’t want you here. I already have someone who is longing to lend me his hand. He’s very kind. Very kind indeed.” And before I could utter another word, my mother hung up.I was deeply perplexed. It was clear that Mum’s grief had made her rash and impulsive. What had possessed her to move so far away from London? The fact that she’d managed to get into my father’s carefully protected pension fund was extremely worrying. My mother was notoriously hopeless with money. It was a family joke. Dad and I had gone to great lengths to make sure that she’d just receive a monthly allowance so she couldn’t spend it all at once. I felt I’d let him down and he’d only been gone four months.There was nothing else for it. I’d have to drive to Little Dipperton, wherever that might be, and make her see sense.
About The Author
Born in England, Hannah relocated to Los Angeles with her daughter and two cats to pursue a career in screenwriting. Along the road to publication she has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Hannah is the author of the Vicky Hill Mysteries (Constable UK) and the first, in her new series, “Murder at Honeychurch Hall” (Minotaur). Now living in Portland, Oregon Hannah continues to teach mystery writing at UCLA, has served on numerous judging committees for the Mystery Writers of America and still works part-time for a west coast advertising agency. She is married to an advertising executive and enjoys hiking, horseback riding, skiing and seriously good chocolate. http://www.hannahdennison.com
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