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by Cathy Ace
TouchWood, May 2015
240 pages
ISBN: 1771511206

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This cozy offers a double-dip because it is also something of a locked-room mystery. For starters, the setting is in Wales in Castle Llwyd (roughly pronounced Lloyd) during a torrential storm that traps the entire cast of characters in place for days. Castle Llwyd is a mix of Norman, Gothic, and Jacobean architecture with additions depending on the whims of various owners – it is the first of many mysteries because it simply defies description, though God knows author Cathy Ace tries. Repeatedly.

Having fallen on the typical hard times of modern families whose wealth is in inherited and historic property rather than cash, the castle is open for tours and rented out for events. Enter Canadian Cait Morgan and her fiancé Bud Anderson for the perfect romantic wedding in a fairy tale setting. Add her depressed (?), over-drugged (?). jet-lagged (?) sister Sian from Australia, and the assorted odd residents of the castle including the family and the live-in (rather than paid) help and come up with a body which appears to have died falling down a staircase but was likely pushed or tripped and the mysteries begin piling up.

Cait quickly tells us that she is a hugely successful psychologist whose field of research as a professor of criminology at the University of Vancouver is that of profiling victims of crimes. Add a mystery: she does little to profile the victim of this crime but makes an end run on profiling everyone else.

Add more mysteries: an odd platter in the dining room that hints of vast treasures hidden in the castle, hugely unacceptable behavior on the parts of a number of characters that is never explained but magically disappears by the end of the novel, and the many times that various characters discover that something they had treasured has been deliberately destroyed.

For me, the biggest mystery of all is why so little of the action occurs on scene. Nearly everything is described, explained, and judged by character after character after it happens. The dialogue is awkward and deadly and slows the pace of the mystery nearly to a standstill in several places.

This is the fifth in Cathy Ace's Cait Morgan Mystery Series, I have not read the first four novels. Maybe I've missed something, but my impression is that Cait has told me everything she knows.

§ Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, June 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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