Tag Archives: Bronte Mysteries

#BookReview ‘The Red Monarch’ by Bella Ellis @brontemysteries #crime

I’ve loved both of the Bella Ellis’s Brönte Mysteries series to date and the latest, The Red Monarch, is my favourite so far. If I could give it 6*, I would. It ticks so many boxes. Fast action, thoughtful detecting, literary and Brönte references, romance, the dirty violent underworld of London, dastardly baddies to defeat and wrongs to be righted.Bella EllisWhen Lydia Roxby runs into trouble in London, she writes to her former governess Anne Brönte appealing for help. Lydia’s actor husband Harry has been imprisoned by a violent gang, accused of stealing a jewel. Heavily pregnant Lydia is given seven days to return the jewel or Harry will be killed. The four Brönte siblings rush to London and find Lydia living in an attic room at the Covent Garden Theatre, run by Harry’s father.
The first problem for the Bröntes is how to find a jewel when no information is available. Lydia knows nothing and either people are ignorant or frightened to speak. The streets around Covent Garden are run by a gangster, Noose, and his network of thugs and spies. So, naturally, the first thing the Bröntes do is seek a face-to-face meeting with Noose.
Operating out of their comfort zone but driven by a clear determination of what is right, backed up by their love for each other, Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell must negotiate the dangerous streets of the slums, adopting disguises, refusing to be cowed by threats and bluster, taking risks on who to trust. The more they find out, the clearer it is that they must confront the crime boss who terrifies everyone. But the so-called Red Monarch is so feared that no one dare say his name for fear of being overheard by one of his spies and subsequently killed as a traitor. The whole area exists in an atmosphere of fear and exploitation.
This is an original concept and a plot that, like its two predecessors, combines genres effortlessly. With witty asides and foreshadowing of the Bröntes’ writings – as this novel starts, the sisters’ first edition of poetry is published – this is both familiar and unfamiliar territory. Like comfort food, but surprisingly different. As the thoughtful, literary siblings pursue criminals, we see the strengths and weaknesses of each. Who would have imagined Emily carrying a sword?
Loved it. Oh, and another beautiful cover.

Here are my reviews of the first two books in the #Brönte Mysteries series:-

If you like this, try:-
A Death in the Dales’ by Frances Brody
Hiding the Past’ by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Cover Her Face’ by PD James

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE RED MONARCH by Bella Ellis @bröntemysteries #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5wo via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The Diabolical Bones’ by Bella Ellis @brontemysteries

If you’ve never read a novel by one of the Brontë sisters, it doesn’t matter. There is plenty to enjoy about the Brontë Mysteries by Bella Ellis without figuring out the innumerable references to Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Diabolical Bones is second in the crime series after the impressive first, The Vanished Bride. This one is better, and darker.Bella Ellis

When bones are found interred in the walls of a local house on the moor, the three detecting sisters and reluctant brother Branwell set out to confirm the child’s identity so it can be respectfully buried. There are few clues; the location of the find, the father and son who live in the house, the age of the child, and a medallion found with the bones. Top Withens, the remote house concerned, is said to be Emily’s inspiration for the house of the Earnshaw family, Wuthering Heights.

Ellis has constructed a convincing world for the sisters; the parsonage, their blind father, housekeeper Tabby, the villagers in Haworth and wider circle of acquaintances. The charm of this portrayal of the Brontës is the strength of the series. Branwell’s presence is key as in 1852, lone women could not venture out as the sisters do here without the company of a man. The portrayal of the sisters is fascinating, the dynamic between the three, the shared history and understanding of each other, the irritations and the love, their intellectual capabilities, their doubts and bravery. Each has differing strengths which lend weight to the investigations. Emily is impulsive and inspired, Anne is calm and logical, Charlotte is clever but insecure. As Anne says, ‘Detecting does seem to involve a great deal of time looking for something that might not exist.’

It is winter and freezing cold and as the sisters wrap themselves in cloaks to adventure outdoors, the atmosphere is dark and Gothic. Social issues are addressed; the exploitation of orphan children, the plight of urban and rural poor, the prejudice against Irish immigrants, the privilege of wealth.

Of course, the reward when reading crime novels is to spot the murderer early in the tale. I admit to thinking ‘surely it’s not…’ This plot is well constructed; read it and see if you spot any early clues. The story skips along at a fair pace and when I put the book down, I was always longing to read just another chapter.

The series is fast becoming a favourite. Brilliant escapism.

Here’s my review of The Vanished Bride, first in the Brontë mysteries series.

If you like this, try:-
‘A Death in the Dales’ by Frances Brody
The Mystery of Three Quarters’ by Sophie Hannah
Yuki Chan in Bronte Country’ by Mick Jackson

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE DIABOLICAL BONES by Bella Ellis @brontemysteries #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4YZ via @SandraDanby

#BookReview ‘The Vanished Bride’ by Bella Ellis @brontemysteries #crime

Yorkshire, 1845. A woman disappears overnight from her home. Her husband is distraught. All that remains of her is copious amounts of blood on the bed. The local police are inept. This is the first mystery in a series of new amateur sleuths, the three Bronte sisters, in The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis. Bella Ellis

I loved this book from the beginning. Bronte fans will love it but anyone new to Bronte will find it an engaging introduction to the three clever and inspirational sisters. What a fresh idea to involve Charlotte, Emily and Anne in an occupation that suits their imaginations, attention to detail and energy. Anne says, ‘It is truly terrible that I am a little thrilled to think of us as three invisible lady detectors seeking out the truth? I believe we could be quite the only such creatures in all existence.’

Their characters are clearly drawn and their engagements with other characters – brother Branwell, father Patrick, cook Tabby and maid Martha – are all convincing. The case of the vanished bride comes to their attention because the governess to the two small children of the missing woman is none other than Matilda French, a former schoolfriend of Charlotte and Emily at Cowan Bridge school.

As they track down clues and bravely confront strangers to ask questions, the three sisters must learn to manage the wilder leaps of their imagination and use judgement to analyse clues, sifting, comparing, discarding. At first their naivety while charming, is a problem, as they tend to believe everything they hear. But they soon wise up to the disreputable agendas of others and become adept at setting trick questions, analysing body language, and basically not believing everything they are told. Stepping outside their comfort zone at Haworth, they venture into worlds not usually frequented alone by unmarried women. Though obviously a fictional not historical account, it is an interesting picture of the real world limitations they faced.

Owing not a little to the gothic, their detecting involves folklore and supernatural elements, a wonderful journey to the seaside at Scarborough to find a witness, and thrilling night time excursions involving a little breaking and entering. Throughout it all, their clergyman father is ignorant of their ‘detecting’ and the risks they take, and they become adept at soothing his concerns at their odd behaviour.

Author Ellis [aka novelist Rowan Coleman] has been a Bronte fan since childhood and this is demonstrated in her knowledge of character, setting and historical context. In the Author’s Note, she explains her choice of August 1845 for this first novel. Charlotte has returned home from Brussels to join Emily while Branwell and Anne are home again from employment at Thorp Grange. It is the first time for several months the four are under the same roof. The characters, the settings, are pure Bronte; the detective story is Ellis’s own.

To set the timing of The Vanished Bride within the context of the Brontes’ real life, it takes place a year before their first publication – of Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell – in 1846. In 1847, Charlotte’s Jane Eyre, Emily’s Wuthering Heights, and Anne’s Agnes Grey, were published.

Excellent, one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year.

If you like this, try:-
The Girl at the Window’ by Rowan Coleman
Yuki Chan in Bronte Country’ by Mick Jackson
A Snapshot of Murder’ by Frances Brody 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis @brontemysteries #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-4uY via @SandraDanby