BOOK: Murder at Graverly Manor by Daniel Edward Craig (2009)

I picked this mystery up off the shelves of my local public library a few weeks ago on a total whim.  I’d never heard of the author, but I was looking for something short and frivolous, and the description on the book jacket made it sound like just the thing: a spooky little “cozy” set in a bed and breakfast.

Though not particularly well-written (it’s not badly written either, mind you — just not a stand-out language-wise), I really enjoyed both the story and the main character, Trevor Lambert, a hotelier who, it turns out, is the star of a series of mysteries by author Daniel Edward Craig (the “Edward” stands for “Not THAT Daniel Craig“).  Always nice to stumble into a new batch of books, especially ones you can trust to be entertaining throw-aways when you want to take a brain break between two heavier novels, a purpose previously served well for me by Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, RIP.

This story begins with Trevor feeling literally burned out from his last job, a gig managing a huge luxury hotel recently destroyed in a fire. (Ha! Get it? Literally burned out?)  Depressed and unemployed, Trevor moves back to his hometown, Vancouver, BC, to look for another position.

Just as he’s about to take a crappy job at a crappy hotel, a twist of fate strikes:  a big, classy, old bed and breakfast, Graverly Manor, goes on the market, and at a ridiculously low price to boot.  Immediately, Trevor wants it; he’d already been thinking he was tired of all the hustle and bustle of managing huge hotels, and a B&B seems like the perfect, quiet change he needs.

It’s not long before he figures out why Graverly Manor’s on the market for peanuts, though — it turns out its octogenarian proprietress, Lady Elinor Graverly, has to sell it fast in order to move to the UK, where she must establish residency or risk losing the family home there as well.  But Elinor isn’t in so much of a hurry she’s willing to sell the manor to just anyone.  After talking to Trevor a few times, she agrees to let him buy it, but only if he’ll work alongside her for a month so she can make sure he’s TRULY qualified.

Trevor’s not thrilled by this plan — Lady Graverly is unlikely to let him make any of the changes he’s eager to get started on before reopening under new management — but he desperately wants the place, so he agrees.  After moving in, however, he realizes he’s in for quite a ride.  Elinor is a complete mystery to him, for one thing.  On the one hand, she has very specific rules about things (mostly cocktail hour) and woe to the person who attempts to bend or break them.  On the other, she’s hardly ever around, procedures are bafflingly lax, and the place is utterly filthy.  Plus, she immediately forbids Daniel access her apartment in the manor, not even to take a peek before he signs the paperwork.  When it turns out she has an adult son with developmental disabilities living with her, this rule makes a little more sense — perhaps she doesn’t want him to get upset by the presence of strangers.  But even that is somewhat mysterious — who is this son of hers, and what happened to make him the way he is?

The manor seems to have an eccentric personality all its own, as well.  Rumors abound that it’s haunted by Lord Graverly’s ghost, for example — he disappeared several decades back, and though Lady Graverly insists he isn’t dead (but instead ran off with the maid), suspicious events lead Trevor to suspect she might not be telling the whole truth.  The house is also full of strange sounds, terrible odors that seem to come and go, a truly evil cat, an odd elderly butler who’s been with the Graverly family forever, and a housekeeping staff of one (who also happens to be sleeping with the elderly butler — try not to think about it).

Something weird’s going on at Graverly Manor, that’s for sure, and Trevor quickly finds himself smack-dab in the middle of it.  When he begins to poke around looking for answers, he sets off a series of events (starting with the sudden disappearance of the housekeeper) that roller-coaster us to an incredible twist at the end — a twist that caught me completely by surprise (in part because I wasn’t paying all that much attention, but still), a quality I always find extremely pleasurable in a story, even when it’s a bit on the silly side, as it is here.

In short, this is a thoroughly entertaining novel, and fans of spooky stories and murder mysteries will probably enjoy it quite a bit.  I’m looking forward to reading another installment myself the next time I need a break from something weighty, so watch for more reviews coming soon!  (It may be just what I need as soon as I finish my current book, Karl Marlante’s brilliant Vietnam War novel Matterhorn, which I’m finding as heavy emotionally as it is physically (600 pages-plus!).)


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One Response to “BOOK: Murder at Graverly Manor by Daniel Edward Craig (2009)”

  1. Alisa Cabral Says:

    Sounds like a good read, tried buying it for my ebook, but no such luck. I may have to buy a physical copy LOL. While doing a quick search to see if I could get it via ebook, I came across his website, thought you would be interested.

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