Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ten Lords A-Leaping by C.C. Benison

The blurb:
A skydiving routine for charity goes horribly awry, leaving a wealthy lord dead and his household at odds as to whether it was an accident... or coldblooded murder at 20,000 feet.  To fundraise for the parish at bucolic Thornfield Regis, Father Tom Christmas skydives, plummeting for charity.  While his landing is bumpy, it's nothing to compared to that of Hector, Earl of Fairhaven, who leaps from 20,000 feet with disastrous results. 

Some residents of the town, including every member of the household, believe those results were not accidental, and soon Tom Christmas is investigating a crime that will take him into the secrets of his own past, and in for a very hard landing of his own.

The latest Father Christmas mystery, Ten Lords A-Leaping,   is squarely a cozy mystery.  Though there are several suspicious deaths, intrigue, romantic rendezvous, you won't find much of the action that characterizes the usual detective novels or thrillers.  

Instead, we are treated the story told from the point of view of Tom Christmas, an amateur sleuth and young vicar.  Tom is father to twelve year-old Melinda, a widower, and a personable young man.  While he doesn't usually mix with the aristocracy and he's not fully at ease with them, he's got excellent manners and is generally well liked.  

In this episode, the earl of Fairhaven has opened up his estate to a fundraising parachute jump by a group of philanthropic and adventurous peers who call themselves "Ten Lords A-Leaping".  Tom's parish is the beneficiary, so he joins the group in this fundraising parachute jump.  There is a terrifying moment during the jump and Tom is injured in the event.  Tom is invited to recuperate on the estate as s a guest at Thornford Regis.   Tom's  nervous about being the odd man out during the house party of sorts but his friends Lady Jane Kirkbride and her husband Lord Jamie Kirkbride are also guests on the estate. The rest of the guests are related whether through marriage or by blood.  It's an unusual set with half-siblings, step siblings, cousins that share overlapping and conflicting interests in priceless art collections and estates but little genuine affection.  

Tom Christmas comes across the first dead body and finds himself in the middle of an investigation.  Trapped in the country by his sprained ankle and the suspicious death, Tom and Miranda must stay until the very end.  

I enjoyed Ten Lords A-Leaping largely because Tom Christmas' voice is engaging, funny, and with just enough self-depricating wit.  If you prefer your mysteries action packed, this book isn't going to do it for you.  But if you're looking for a light, escape in an English country house full of eccentric lords and ladies, precocious children, a secret passage and a priest's hole, you will likely enjoy Ten Lords A-Leaping.

Series: Father Christmas Mysteries
  • ISBN-10: 0385344473 - Hardcover $25.00
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (December 3, 2013), 512 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewers Program.

About the Author:
C. C. Benison has worked as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines, as a book editor, and as a contributor to nonfiction books. A graduate of the University of Manitoba and Carleton University, he is the author of six previous novels, including Twelve Drummers Drumming and Eleven Pipers Piping. He lives in Winnipeg.

C. C. BENISON is the nom de plume for Arthur Ellis Award-winning author Doug Whiteway. He studied comparative religion at the University of Manitoba and journalism at Carleton University, in Ottawa, and has worked as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines, as a book editor, and as a contributor to nonfiction books. He is the author of the Her Majesty Investigates series of crime novels, a stand-alone novel, Death in Cold Type, and, more recently, the Father Christmas series, which includes Twelve Drummers Drumming (2011), Eleven Pipers Piping (2012) and Ten Lords A-Leaping (2013). He lives in Winnipeg.

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