Book Review: Death at the Manor (The Asharton Manor Mysteries Book 1) by Celina Grace

(Apologies for the poor quality picture!!)

Title: Death at the Manor (The Asharton Manor Mysteries Book 1)
Published: Published May 29th 2014 (first published May 1st 2014)
Publisher:  unknown
Author: Celina Grace
Twitter: @Celina_Grace

Synopsis (taken from Good Reads website)
This is a novella-length piece of fiction (about 20 thousand words)

It is 1929. Asharton Manor stands alone in the middle of a pine forest, once the place where ancient pagan ceremonies were undertaken in honour of the goddess Astarte. The Manor is one of the most beautiful stately homes in the West Country and seems like a palace to Joan Hart, newly arrived from London to take up a servant’s position as the head kitchen maid. Getting to grips with her new role and with her fellow workers, Joan is kept busy, but not too busy to notice that the glittering surface of life at the Manor might be hiding some dark secrets. The beautiful and wealthy mistress of the house, Delphine Denford, keeps falling ill but why? Confiding her thoughts to her friend and fellow housemaid, feisty Verity Hunter, Joan is unsure of what exactly is making her uneasy, but then Delphine Denford dies…

Armed only with their own good sense and quick thinking, Joan and Verity must pit their wits against a cunning murderer in order to bring them to justice.

Death at the Manor is the first in the Asharton Manor Mysteries series: a four part series of novellas spanning the twentieth century. Each standalone story uses Asharton Manor as the backdrop to a devious and twisting crime mystery, from bestselling crime writer Celina Grace, author of The Kate Redman Mysteries


Despite this being a very short book, I found it to be an enjoyable period mystery. There was a lot of promise to the story which, unfortunately, was too short to really take root.

It is told from the view point of a kitchen maid, Joan Hart, and due to the length of the story there is little opportunity for development of the supporting characters. This leaves them slightly one-dimensional and difficult to relate to or care about. This is one of my main problems with the book, I could not bring myself to care about the character who was murdered or the potential murderers. As such, it did not ultimately matter to me who the villain proved to be. This slightly ruined my enjoyment of an otherwise reasonable murder mystery.

I understand that there are to be more mysteries involving Joan Hart and her oldest friend, Verity. If these are developed into a full length novel, I would be very interested to read the same. As an advertising gimmick for a full series, this novella is great, however I do not consider that ‘whodunit’s’ really lend themselves to short stories due to the lack of opportunity for character or plot development.
The book is released in electronic format and is currently free via Amazon UK.  

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