Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall
by Hannah Dennison
Cover Artist: Mary Ann Lasher
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250105448
Date: 11 October 2016 List Price $15.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Kat Stanford and her beloved mum, Iris, are horrified to learn the government plans to build a high-speed bullet train through the British village of Little Dipperton. Honeychurch Hall will be destroyed. Lavinia Honeychurch has hired an environmentalist, Benedict Scroope, to prevent construction; fortunately for them, an endangered species of hazel dormice lives in nearby Hopton's Crest.
A government official, Valentine Prince-Avery, arrives to assess properties for compensation. At a town meeting, citizens are angered to learn most families aren't entitled to this money. Soon afterwards, a handicapped woman at Hopton's Crest is found dead in a ditch. A few days later, a corpse is dragged from Coffin Mire, a swamp at Hopton's Crest. Kat and Iris are targeted for death when they search for a killer.
Liars abound in Hannah Dennisonís superlative cozy, Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall (following her outstanding debut, Murder at Honeychurch Hall). Many people have false identities. Let's begin with adorable seven-year-old Harry Honeychurch who loves to play in his tree house at Hopton's Crest and pretend he's Squadron Leader James Bigglesworth. Then there is the widowed Iris Stanford who writes raunchy romances under the pseudonym of Krystalle Storm.
A storm of trouble begins brewing when Iris's stepbrother, Alfred Bushman, an ex-convict, comes to live at Honeychurch Hall. He lies and tells everyone he's been horse training in Spain. Many other characters at and around Honeychurch Hall are living lies. These deceptions will get some seriously injured and some killed. Shocking revelations abound; they give this delightful cozy a fast pacing.
Romance also abounds. Three men vie for Kat's affections. First is her ex-boyfriend, David Wynn, an art appraiser, who won't stop sending her flowers. Next is Valentine Prince-Avery whom everyone hates. As the murder investigation progresses, Detective Inspector Shawn Cropper begins to see Kat more as someone who needs protection rather than as a villain. Readers also learn that one of the members of the privileged Honeychurch family may be planning to commit adultery.
A cozy isn't complete without an adorable child and an adorable pet. I've already mentioned Harry. There is also his Jack Russell terrier, Mr. Chips. He gets into all kinds of shenanigans that lead to gruesome discoveries. Having appeared on the beautifully illustrated covers for Murder at Honeychurch Hall and Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall, Mr. Chips has developed quite a fan base among pet lovers.
Slapstick humor also abounds in Deadly Desires at Honeychurch Hall. Mostly it occurs between Kat and her mum, Iris. They are constantly bickering and needling each other. They both snoop into each other's personal possessions. Kat refuses to gossip but she has no qualms about eavesdropping. Neither does she have qualms about lying to the police, especially when she fears they might learn about her mum's suitcase of money she keeps hidden in the attic--more dirty secrets.
I've always loved enormous old mansions and the dysfunctional families that often dwell in them. Maybe this stems from my childhood when I watched Dan Curtisís television production of Dark Shadows, a Gothic soap opera. Though Honeychurch Hall doesn't have vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other supernatural creatures, it does have some bizarre characters that range from lovable to unnerving. Tomorrow, I will attend church and pray for more installments of Hannah Dennison's Honeychurch Hall series.