Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Belinda Lawrence Mystery 3 - Bloody Ham

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Cathy’s bangle-covered wrists stopped their clattering. She looked up sharply. "Do you think that’s wise?" 

Belinda smiled. "Why not? It’ll be dawn soon. The sky’s already getting light in the east. I’ll just stroll along the towpath by the river –" 

Agitated bangles jangled even more violently as Cathy’s hand shot out and grasped hold of Belinda’s shoulder. Belinda flinched and tried to brush the woman away. But the hairdresser’s fingers held firm. 

"Not the towpath," she said. "Never the towpath at night." 

"Why not?" said Belinda, eventually breaking free. She rubbed her shoulder. The woman’s grip had hurt her. 

"Why the ghost, of course." 

Belinda gave a sigh. She was too tired to put up with Cathy’s warnings of doom. "Not another ghost?" 

Cathy nodded violently, eyes wide with alarm. "He walks there at night." 


"They call him the Cavalier. Some say his appearance is the harbinger of death. They believe him to be someone from the house, one of the Duke’s servants. They say he got drunk and fell into the river and drowned. He walks the towpath searching for the way back to the house." 

"If he opened his eyes, it’s right in front of him," said Belinda rather sharply. She was tired and wanted to go to bed and was not in the mood for a spook story. She turned to go. 

"But now’s the time they walk. The spirits. Just before dawn." Cathy was becoming agitated. 

"I’ll be well home before they start their performance," said Belinda, as she stepped out into the shadows. 

Cathy, fingering a talisman she wore on a chain around her neck, stood at the caravan steps and watched as Belinda made her way diagonally across the knot garden towards the front of the house and the river.

(C) 2013 Brian Kavanagh

 REVIEW: Originally seem on MuseItUp Reviews

We’ve heard the movie making business is cutthroat well Belinda’s about to find out just how cutthroat it can be.

Again, I’ve had the opportunity to read Belinda’s third mystery straight after book two and book one.  So, it really wouldn’t be fair to tell you who Belinda’s cohorts are; however, there is a marriage proposal on the table.  Will she or won’t she?  You’ll just have to read and find out.

But never doubt that each book is it’s own stand-alone tale.  I just happen to be a tad fanatical in my series order reading.

This time around, Belinda has been asked to stand-in for a Hollywood actress during the boring hours of movie making.  The same actress who has stepped into the role left by the death of another…murder?  The same actress whose not-so-secret affair with the movie’s producer has ended in murder?  Too bad only Belinda’s fingerprints were on the murder weapon.

“Bloody Ham” is another triumph for Mr. Kavanagh.  Which makes my job as a reviewer that much easier and harder…I thoroughly enjoy “Bloody Ham” but what more can I possibly tell you about Mr. Kavanagh’s writing.

Mr. Kavanagh has not let up on his crisp characters, sweeping mystery, vast subject knowledge, picture perfect settings and dead-on moods.  With each Belinda story just fewer than 200 pages, Mr. Kavanagh utilizes each word for maximum benefit.  There is no wastage within his pages.

Mr. Kavanagh has also managed to keep each recurring character fresh.  He has introduced new aspects to these characters that allow us, his readers, to see them with new eyes and emotions while still keeping them true to their personalities.

I cannot suggest strongly enough that you join Belinda in “Bloody Ham.”

A Belinda Lawrence Mystery 2 - The Embroidered Corpse

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excerpt from THE EMBROIDERED CORPSE, book two in the Belinda Lawrence mystery series.

This is the setting in Winchester, Hampshire.

Reverend Lawson made his way past Winchester Cathedral. The bus had deposited him safely at his destination and his indignation towards the troublesome young passengers dissipated although he had kept a wary eye upon them. He was relieved when, after the bus had drawn to a halt, they had pushed past the remaining travellers and, with an impressive display of immature animation, left the bus before disappearing into the evening mists.

The unpretentious façade of the Cathedral loomed above the vicar, but in his mind’s eye he recalled its cavernous interior and made a mental note to revisit it at the first opportunity. A remembered image of the mortuary chests located above the choir screens and reputed to have contained the remains of Anglo-Saxon kings brought to mind the justification of his visit to Winchester.

Pulling his coat close across his chest against any chill the night might offer, he clutched tightly at the bag containing the mysterious tapestry with the stitched image of William the Conqueror. He was eager to display it for Sir Gerald and anticipated many pleasurable moments in the forthcoming week as the two relived old times and pontificated on the origins of the embroidered work.

As he stepped from the shadows of the cathedral and hurried down Kingsgate Street to Sir Gerald’s house he was aware of activity somewhere behind him. Loud laughter and ribald comment that sounded familiar unnerved him and caused him to increase his stride.

Through the congealing mist Sir Gerald’s house appeared before him and with relief, he hurried up the steps, rang the bell and waited to be admitted. The insidious sniggering continued and he glanced over his shoulder. A streetlight switched on and beneath its glow he saw the young boy and girl, his aggravating travelling companions. They seemed consumed with each other and ignored him. He could smell the sour tang of chips and the greasy nauseating odour of hamburger.

To his relief, the door to the house was opened and he was admitted to its warmth and protection. The two young travellers seemed oblivious to his departure and continued feeding each other the unsavoury cuisine.

However, their laughter ceased and as the door closed behind Reverend Lawson they became silent and watchful. In the still Wessex night they were the only signs of human life in the now dark and deserted street. (C) 2013 brian Kavanagh

REVIEW: Originally seem on MuseItUp Reviews

Belinda is back and it’s still murder, but at who’s cost this time.

I’m caught between reviews here.  I started “The Embroidered Corpse” immediately after writing my review of Belinda’s first mystery “Capable of Murder” which is the best way to read any series…no waiting period between tales.  However, I can’t tell you who joins Belinda this time around without giving away clues to “Capable of Murder.”

What I will tell you is some characters do survive book one to “The Embroidered Corpse” and they, together with Belinda, are a delicious mix of uniquely diverse individuals.  And, once more, Mr. Kavanagh murders with surprising twists of victims.

Belinda and company are caught in the history of a mediaeval English King and the tapestry that may or may not solve an ancient mystery.  How Belinda finds herself in these mixes is truly a giggle.  I, sometimes, feel as if I’ve discovered a grown up version of the Enid Blyton series “The Famous Five.”  And, I do hope Mr. Kavanagh takes this as the compliment it’s meant…I searched all of Scotland for her books after foolishly giving them away as a teen. 

What is it that has me matching these two authors?  It is how they incorporate the landscape and buildings around the characters almost as separate characters.  Both add dimension and pacing to the story telling.  They add a flavour to each scene’s mood.

Another aspect of Mr. Kavanagh’s writing is the historical knowledge he peppers throughout the story.  Never does this information dampen the telling, it only enhances the thrill of the solving. 

Currently, I am reading Belinda’s third adventure (“Bloody Ham”) and, once again, I’m lost in Mr. Kavanagh’s world.

Thank you, Mr. Kavanagh.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Belinda Lawrence Mystery 1 - Capable of Murder

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Extract from CAPABLE OF MURDER - book one in the series.

Brooding mists camouflaged the Palladian house and the land that fell away before it. Around the bridge over the lake the mists intensified but even through this vaporous shroud Belinda could see the beauty of the landscape. Mark had been delivering a knowledgeable commentary since their arrival at Prior Park and Belinda, recalling his historical diatribe at dinner recently, was not surprised at the extent of his knowledge.

‘1760,’ was his answer to Belinda’s question. ‘He was about forty-five when he created the gardens here at Prior Park. The first thing he would have done was restore the landscape to its natural regional features.’

Belinda nodded. ‘Jacob says that Brown expressed in his gardens the ideal English landscape.’ Mark looked askance at her. ‘Does he indeed? Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? I’m surprised you didn’t ask him to show you around here.’

‘Actually, I did.’

‘I thought as much. What happened? Did he stand you up?’ Belinda shot him a withering look. ‘Jacob is staying in Wells. I don’t know when he will be home.’

‘And he gave you his version of Capability Brown’s expertise, no doubt?’ Belinda was surprised at Mark’s caustic tone. ‘Do you mean he’s lying?’ she asked doubtfully.

Mark shook his head. ‘No, it’s just that he is so academic about his gardening. But he’s essentially right. Capability was a purist. He created landscapes that didn’t need to acknowledge anything other than the landscape itself. Their beauty was self-contained. He created a vista that his clients could never have imagined.'

‘Does that apply to his small gardens?’ Belinda asked in an over-casual voice. Mark glanced at her. ‘So I’ve been told. I’ve never had the privilege of seeing one of his small gardens. He did so few.’

They made their way through the park, and the sun, filtering through the lifting mists, shone weakly over the gently rolling contours of Capability’s vision. Mark opened the car door for Belinda and walked around to open the other. Belinda watched him over the roof of the car. ‘Tell me, Mark, you’re knowledgeable about historical matters. Did Michelangelo ever paint in England?’

Mark leant on the car roof and looked at her, an amused smile on his lips. Belinda gave an irritable shake of her head.

‘Oh come on, Mark. I admit it. I’m ignorant. Just keep your self-satisfied attitude to yourself and answer my question. Did he?’

‘Never in England.’ Mark could not keep his amusement from colouring his voice.

‘Well, did he paint at the same time, in 1760 or whatever.’

‘Same millennium, but two hundred years earlier.’ Mark could not contain his amusement. Silently cursing him, Belinda took her seat in the car.

As they drove towards Milford in a strained silence, Belinda’s thoughts centred on the triangular scrap of paper she had snatched from Rosemary’s lifeless fingers. How did the word written on that fragment of parchment relate to Capability Brown and the mystery surrounding the garden? Silently, Belinda mouthed the name that tantalised her. ‘Michelangelo.’ But what was the connection?

(C) 2013 Brian Kavanagh

REVIEW: Originally seem on MuseItUp Reviews

A solid tale of greed, obsession, and murder.

“Capable of Murder” is a must read!  Mr. Kavanagh has written a story I could not solve, something that has become a rarity for me.  Thank you.

This tale is quite simple, really.  The setting is on the outskirts of Bath, England.  Belinda Lawrence is summoned, via a letter, by her reclusive great-aunt for a visit; however, ends up finding the aunt dead.  Being the only living relative, Belinda inherits her aunt’s ancient cottage and dilapidated gardens.  Belinda believes her aunt was murdered.  Why?  Because the letter summoning Belinda was mailed after her aunt’s supposed accident.  That, and everyone Belinda meets seems to know more than they are willing to tell.  Oh, and there’s that attempt on Belinda’s life as well.

Yes, “Capable of Murder” does seem a simple murder mystery, but it’s all in the telling and Mr. Kavanagh does a wonderful job at telling it.  He has painted a clear picture of the cottage and gardens.  The characters are engaging while being both straightforward and complex.  The killer’s motive for murder is not the normal quest for money or power, but something more down to earth.

“Capable of Murder” is the first in the Belinda Lawrence series and I hope this will prove to be a long series as she and Mr. Kavanagh have a permanent place on my library shelves.