It's Christmas time again! Time for the newest Tom Christmas mystery from C.C. Benison, that is! The latest entry in this wonderful cozy mystery series - Ten Lords A-Leaping - is newly released.
At the end of the last book - Eleven Pipers Piping (see a theme here?) - Father Christmas, the vicar of the small English village of Thornford Regis had organized a sky diving fundraiser for the church's much needed new roof.
Eggescombe Hall, the country home of the Earl of Fairhaven, has been offered up as the venue. Not every one is feeling charitable though. Two of the Leaping Lords get into a tussle thousands of feet in the sky....and one Lord's parachute fails to open. What was supposed to have been an afternoon's event is extended when one of the Earl's cousins is found murdered in the labyrinth. Father Tom, his daughter Miranda, housekeeper Madrun and many assorted 'peers of the realm' are ordered to stay put by the local constabulary until they determine 'whodunit'.
Benison opens the book with one of Madrun's chatty letters to her mother. I adore these letters - Madrun's misspelled words, crossed out sentences and her view on what's going one. Subtle clues are also dropped into her missives. And some of it is just plain fun....
"We talked on a bit, PC Widger and I. Turns out his mother-in-law is a cousin once removed of Tilly Springett's late husband who used to farm near Thornford you remember. Anyway his mother-in-law is a lady golf ball diver (ret'd). She would dive into the water traps at the golf course all over the West Country and sell the balls she found! So nice to have a chat with someone about something normal!"
But the real draw is the main character Tom. He's not a stuffy old parson poking about, but instead is a younger, handsome widower who comes across as very human and very real. His own wife's killer was never found. He's doing the best he can to raise his eleven year old daughter. (who is just as curious and loves a set of novels featuring a French girl detective) In Ten Lords A-Leaping, Tom makes a decision based on loneliness and desire. But will that decision have an impact on discovering who the real murderer is? I appreciate that Tom's character and persona are being developed more and more from book to book. Subtle clues about Tom's biological parents are dropped and I'm sure this thread will likely appear in a further book.
His calm and gentle manner is comforting and more than a bit of good advice is usually shared. Tom has a knack for eliciting information. I must say though, he has a propensity for stumbling across dead bodies!
There are many, many players in this latest mystery - I found myself quite glad that Benison provided a family tree as an appendix, as I referred to it often in the beginning. We're kept guessing as to the identity of the killer - no one seems to be able to tell the truth at Eggescombe Hall. Everyone is determined to keep their own secrets. Half truths, outright lies and omissions cloud the journey to the killer's identity. Benison cleverly inserts an unsolved mystery from the previous book into the plot of this one. Ten Lords A-Leaping had an Agatha Christie feel to it - with the estate on lock down and the killer most likely one of those within the walls
Picking up the latest Father Tom mystery has become one of my Christmas reading traditions. Benison has set us up for the next in the series through Madrun's latest letter to her Mum. A Hollywood actress with ties the village will be directing the Drama Society's latest play - Nine Ladies. This reader will be waiting eagerly for next year's release - and the return to the village as a setting.
Definitely a recommended series. Established fans will want to add Ten Lords A-Leaping to their collection. New readers - treat yourself and start from the beginning with Twelve Drummers Drumming.
Read an excerpt of Ten Lords A-Leaping. You can keep up with C.C. Benison on Facebook and on Twitter.