Friday, November 5, 2010

Peril at Somner House-Joanna Challis

Peril at Somner House
Joanna Challis
Minotaur, Oct 26 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312367169

The two du Maurier sisters, wannabe novelists Daphne and Angela, are staying at the mansion of Max Trevalayan on St. Mary’s, a barrier island off of Cornwall. Their idyllic time ends when their host is murdered while his wife’s alibi is another man. The siblings decide to investigate the killing starting with interviewing those staying or working at Max’s mansion, Somner House.

The severe wintry weather helps and impedes their inquiry as no one can leave, but everyone uncooperatively grouches over being stuck inside especially with a murderer amongst them. As Daphne and Angela uncover secrets from those they question, almost all unrelated to the homicide, the killer watches the progress the siblings make because if they get to close Max will have company.

The key to the entertaining second du Maurier murder mystery (see Murder on the Cliffs) is the tone of Joanna Challis’ story line as the author emulates the gothic tone of the more famous of the writing siblings inside of an Agatha Christie style plot. In fairness that also takes an adjustment to a writing style that feels somewhat antiquated yet also enhances the plausibility of the two amateur sleuths detecting. Ironically the older sister Angela takes more of a lead on the whodunit as Daphne has a male distraction that fails to gel with the prime historical murder plot. Still readers will enjoy the du Maurier sisters investigate at their own Peril at Somner House.

Harriet Klausner

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