A Dream of Death
By Connie Berry
Kate Hamilton Mysteries #1
Crooked Lane Books, 2019
On a remote Scottish island, American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton wrestles with her own past while sleuthing a brutal killing, staged to recreate a two-hundred-year-old unsolved murder.
Autumn has come and gone on Scotland’s Isle of Glenroth, and the islanders gather for the Tartan Ball, the annual end-of-tourist-season gala. Spirits are high. A recently published novel about island history has brought hordes of tourists to the small Hebridean resort community. On the guest list is American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton. Kate returns reluctantly to the island where her husband died, determined to repair her relationship with his sister, proprietor of the island’s luxe country house hotel, famous for its connection with Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Kate has hardly unpacked when the next morning a body is found, murdered in a reenactment of an infamous unsolved murder described in the novel—and the only clue to the killer’s identity lies in a curiously embellished antique casket. The Scottish police discount the historical connection, but when a much-loved local handyman is arrested, Kate teams up with a vacationing detective inspector from Suffolk, England, to unmask a killer determined to rewrite island history—and Kate’s future.
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It’s been a while since reading a mystery that I could hardly put down, but that’s the case with A Dream of Death by debut author Connie Berry. I simply can’t say enough about this traditional mystery! Spellbinding, atmospheric, captivating … A Dream of Death is quite exquisite. Definitely a 5-star, best-of-the-best read for me. Connie Berry is an author to watch.
I was initially drawn to this book because of a love for British fiction, and Scotland is the icing on the cake. The isolated setting – Glenroth, a fictional island in the Inner Hebrides – becomes a major character. The descriptions are so vivid and easy to follow that I could visualize each scene in my mind, even sensing the rush of the wind and the pulse of the sea. The prose is exquisite, with a gentle touch of humor. And you won’t find any fluffy descriptions of food or clothing; rather, every word is important and propels the storyline along.
Three years ago I’d been Kate – wife, mother, daughter,
friend. I’d known my lines by heart. Then the curtain fell,
and when it rose again, I’d found myself in a new play,
without script or cues. No choice but to stumble along.
There’s a poignancy to the mystery plot itself. The murder victim was the sister of Kate’s deceased husband, Bill. Tension existed between these three in the past, for there seemed to be an unbreakable bond between brother and sister that came ahead of the marriage relationship. When the story opens, Kate is traveling to Glenroth in order to make good on a promise to Bill that she would look after his sister. Elenor is a complex character, and Kate soon discovers that the “reasons to dislike Elenor were as plentiful as cold germs in January.” And then there’s Bo, who seems to be the most likely suspect. A life-long friend of Bill’s, Bo has a cognitive disability, but is high functioning. I loved this character so much and appreciated that he was portrayed realistically.
A Dream of Death is a wonderfully engrossing story of great depth that leaves me wanting so much more from this author. And to top it off, this story is clean – no profanity or explicit scenes. Thank you, Connie Berry, for showing that an excellent novel has no need of these elements.
Book #2, A Legacy of Murder, releases in October 2019 – and I can’t wait! It looks like future stories will be set in England, but I hope for an eventual return to Scotland.
I received a copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Like her main character, Connie Berry was raised by charmingly eccentric antique collectors who opened a shop, not because they wanted to sell antiques but because they needed a plausible excuse to keep buying them.
Connie adores history, off-season foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Millie.
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