Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: Murder on the Moor by Julianna Deering

Murder on the Moor (A Drew Farthering Mystery #5)
By: Julianna Deering
Publisher: Bethany House
ISBN: 978-0-7642-1828-6


Although over a year has passed since his last case, amateur sleuth Drew Farthering hasn't lost his passion for solving crimes, and therefore when his old school chum comes calling with a plea for assistance, he is unable to resist the lure of a fresh case. Hubert "Beaky" Bloodworth recently inherited Bloodworth Park Lodge, the family seat located in the Yorkshire moors. In the months since taking possession of his inheritance, he and his new wife Sabrina have been plagued by a rash of mysterious incidents, most recently culminating in the vicious murder of the elderly vicar. With no apparent motive in the vicar's murder, Sabrina has become increasingly paranoid, resulting in Beaky's desperate plea for Drew's assistance in bringing the culprits behind the rash of worrisome events to justice.

Despite his fraught history with Sabrina (as her previous relationship with one of Drew's old friends ended badly), Drew resolves to do all he can to help restore Beaky's peace of mind. He and Madeline journey to Bunting's Nest, there discovering a village as shrouded in mystery as the moors that surround it, populated by close-knit villagers instantly distrustful of outside interference, where rumors of romantic entanglements and illicit activities abound. As the danger surrounding Beaky and Sabrina continues to mount, and Drew's investigation chips away at long-buried secrets, he must confront his own long-held prejudices or risk his bias blinding him to the truth. As long-buried secrets come to light, Drew finds himself in a race against time to stop a vicious killer before he destroys everything Beaky -- and Drew -- hold dear.

Murder on the Moor is the fifth installment in Julianna Deering's Drew Farthering mystery series, and if it is an indication, the best is yet to come for Drew and Madeline's and their penchant for crime solving. With each successive installment in the series, I am both amazed and delighted by Deering's pitch-perfect facility for bringing the tropes and flavor of the golden age of mystery writing to life for a twenty-first century audience. Each volume is fresh take on a tried-and-true formula, breathing new life into a classic genre, a world both familiar and new, peopled with Deering's engaging characters and endless flair for the creative application of mystery's most enduring tropes.

For Drew's fifth outing, Deering blends a pitch-perfect tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles with the romanticism, atmosphere, and a dash of the thematic elements found within Charlotte Bronte's enduring classic,  Jane Eyre. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this may be my favorite Deering novel yet. In both this book and its predecessor (Dressed for Death), Deering places Drew and Madeline within the familiar atmosphere of specific, familiar settings to Anglophiles -- in Dressed for Death, she plays up the very British concepts of Austen and the Regency house party, while within the pages of Murder on the Moor, the famed Yorkshire moors take center stage, the desolate, haunting backdrop of some of English literature's most enduring classics.

As a lifelong fan of Sherlock Holmes, I adored all of the nods to one of that detective's most famous cases.  There's the threat of a mysterious, unnatural hound haunting the moor -- and more specifically, the Bloodworths, along with a dark tangle of family secrets and long-buried, forgotten history. I loved how Deering incorporated Nick Dennison, Drew's irrepressible best friend and estate manager, by having him go undercover as a seedy new arrival to Bunting's Nest, perfectly positioned when he takes up residence in the local pub to learn the area's latest and most explosive gossip. It nicely positions Drew and Nick as a 1920s-era incarnation of the Holmes and Watson dynamic, all while allowing Deering to fully exploit Nick's well-documented flair for the dramatic and an ever-ready sly sense of humor. And although Nick's blossoming romance with Carrie has been temporarily derailed by distance, I'm thrilled by the promise that relationship will be rekindled in the near future.

One of the things I appreciate most about this series is Deering's attention to detail and her meticulously constructed characterizations, particularly of her protagonist Drew. While each novel can be read as a standalone, reading Drew's adventures in order make the reading experience far richer. Deering is careful to never drop a detail or plot threads that has been critical to Drew's character growth. His distrust of Sabrina's motives stems from his own failings and desire to make sure the past isn't repeated, and while well-intentioned, serves as the impetus for an exercise in the power of grace, forgiveness, and second chances.

Deering one of the inspirational market's most accessible voices, ripe for crossover potential in a culture that never seems to tire of the unique flavor of the classic British mystery. Murder on the Moor continues to refine her winning formula of sharply-drawn characters, meticulously plotted mysteries, and an impeccable sense of time and place. Each Farthering mystery is penned with a cinematic flair,  resulting in a deliciously immersive reading experience. Murder on the Moor sparkles with Deering's trademark wit and style, a winning formula she continuously reinvents and refreshes, leaving me more eager than ever for the next release!

About the book:

The rolling, frigid mists that creep in over the Yorkshire moors hide a mystery as challenging as Drew has ever faced.

At the urgent request of an old school friend, Drew and Madeline Farthering come to Bloodworth Park Lodge in the midst of the Yorkshire moors, a place as moody and mysterious as a Bronte hero. There are have been several worrisome incidents around those lonesome rolling hills -- property desecrated, fires started, sheep and cattle scattered.  Worst of all, the vicar has been found dead on the steps of the church, a crime for which Drew can discern no motive at all.

Few in the town of Bunting's Nest seem like suspects, and Drew can't keep his suspicions from falling on his friend's new bride. Do her affections lie more with her husband's money and estate, while her romantic interests stray to their fiery Welsh gamekeeper? As the danger grows ever closer, it's up to Drew to look past his own prejudices, determine what's really going on, and find the killer before it's too late.

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