Death Comes to Dartmoor

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

rather convoluted and written blandly

I would like to thank Vivian Conroy, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Lord Raven Royston and Miss Merula Merriweather journey to Dartmoor in an effort to escape the scandal they’ve recently been involved in in London. Expecting to relax with some peace and quiet, they are dismayed to find their host, Oaks, raving like a madman and the villagers ready to burn the house down, regardless of who’s inside. A local girl has been found dead—murdered—and the villagers hold Oaks responsible. Though it’s none of their business, Raven and Merula find themselves investigating the mystery, because if they don’t find the true culprit, their friend will be convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and may spend the rest of his life in an asylum.

I had problems with this book. It took a while for me to care about the plot—or the characters, for that matter. I think I started this book three times before I resigned myself to hunkering down and pushing through to the end. I’m not entirely sure why the beginning didn’t grab me; the tension, intrigue, and action began just a few pages in. I’m inclined to think it was the rather bland writing style that in turn made the characters bland. By bland I mean there was a noticeable lack of adjectives and adverbs and the verbs alone weren’t colorful enough to add richness and emotion to the telling. I remember thinking early on that the writing, the descriptions, were plain. Just plain. That sentiment lasted through to the end, though events and heightening tension eventually brought some energy to the story.

That plain writing style infected characterization. Lamb the irritating lady’s maid—I really didn’t like her—and Bowsprit the valet had more personality than Merula and Raven; the pair of whom also lacked chemistry. Hell, Merula had more chemistry with Bowsprit—whose name made me think of the Pokemon Mesprit every time I read it—than Royce, probably because she actually had meaningful conversations with him. Wait—I mean Raven, not Royce; there was no Royce. I keep getting his name confused and calling him Royce, probably because Raven doesn’t suit him. Not only am I used to it being a female name—thank you, X-Men—it’s too sexy and enigmatic for a man who is neither.

There was nothing special about either Merula or Royce—damn it, Raven! I was rather disgusted in the beginning when Merula stayed to cook and do house stuff while Roy—Raven went off to sleuth. That happened again and again—him leaving her behind to go investigate. To my recollection, the only thing she did to help the investigation was speak with the blacksmith when he answered their summons—not a proactive effort on her part—and act as a sounding board for Raven. Oh, and she did talk to the stable boy, but she didn’t even have to leave the grounds to do that. I only started to care about Merula when out of the blue, around 37%, she revealed that her mother had spent time in Dartmoor before she died, and, I inferred, on a subconscious level Merula was hoping to find traces of her there. Suddenly she had something to do—investigate her parentage—and it was completely irrelevant to the main plot.

I’m honestly not sure I liked Raven; I’m probably closer to dislike than like. To me he came off as disrespectful and dismissive—generally arrogant, I suppose. He kind of did what he wanted and expected everyone else to go along with it and/or accommodate him. (I was so pleased when Merula blatantly ignored his wishes and went off to do what she wanted. That show of independence and backbone is probably the only thing that made me like her.) One could argue that it wasn’t unexpected he would be like that—being a lord and all. But there was some mention of him falling pretty much into ruin in the not-so-distant past, and I would think—hope—that experience would have humbled him. And that’s the heart of the matter—I just didn’t know enough about him—his history, his influences, his motivations, his values—to care. All I knew was that he was something of a natural historian and his mother had died under mysterious circumstances when he was boy. And the latter didn’t matter to the plot, so it was hardly explored.

Which leads me to another problem—I haven’t read the first book in this series, The Butterfly Conspiracy, and I really got the feeling Conroy expected me to have done so. Which, to be fair, is her prerogative—this is a series after all, following the same characters. Naturally the events of the previous book and the consequences thereof would factor in here. But the events of book one were alluded to so frequently—and often so vaguely—that I really began to feel like I was missing major information, and that distanced me from the story. I felt rather excluded, like I was new to a group of friends and didn’t understand their inside jokes. It was unfortunate.

As for the mystery, it…kind of made sense in the end. I have enough of a vague understanding to know that most of it was superfluous; instead of clever storytelling, Conroy buried us in a sprawl of suspects with vague motivations and figured simply confusing us was the same as intriguing us. And it was largely futile; I knew who the culprit was pretty early. What I didn’t understand was why, and imagine my disappointment when the true villain—the true motivation for all the suspects, the thinnest of threads making them at all relevant to each other—was the mere concept of progress. It came down to whether they were for it or against it, and each had their reasons for wanting or not wanting it and limits as to what they would do to see it achieved—or not. The murder mystery itself was good—but adding in all that crap about the railroads and investors and land and whatever—was convoluted and took away any satisfaction to be felt in the capture of the murderer.

One of the most frustrating things was that no one ever asked for names. It became such a thing that I immediately highlighted the one time Raven actually said to the stable boy, “So, my boy…what’s your name, anyway?” It was most notable when Merula met with that man who knew her mother; they met three times, and she never once tried to get his name. Wouldn’t that be one of the first natural things to say— “Who are you?” I mean, jesus. It was ignored so deliberately that it’s obvious Conroy is trying to prolong the intrigue. I did not appreciate it. It just made Merula look stupid. It was also notable when Merula and Royce interrogated first Webber, then Fern. Both denied Merula and Royce’s accusations and tried to discredit their statements again and again—but neither Merula nor Roy—goddamn it, RAVEN—asked, “All right, if it wasn’t you, then who? Who do you believe to be the father? Who do you believe to be the killer? We’re open to suggestions.”

Last thing—Merula should have shown Raven her sketches in the end. It was a huge missed opportunity to develop their relationship—which isn’t surprising; their relationship was nowhere near top priority. From the very first page, it was clear time and time again that Raven wanted to see her sketches—wanted to see that private part of her, to feel as if he were someone special to her for having been shown them—and she was too wary of their attraction to one another, and what could develop from it, to allow him. If the development of their relationship had been more important, it would have been a wonderful demonstration of her acceptance of him, of her letting him in, if the book had ended with her showing him her sketches.

Overall, many aspects of this story were interesting and full of storytelling potential—but few if any of them were well executed. Having recently read Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby mystery series, as well as Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series, I can’t help but compare them with this book, as it could very well be pitched as the marriage of the two—which is why I wanted to read it. But I’ve found this book does not measure up to either of those series.
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Wasn't quite sure how I was going to feel about this book as it started off slow and I just wasn't getting into it. but still I gave it a chance.. after the mystery was set into place I was really enjoying the story. I like how the main characters were very determined to help out their friend and prove his innocence. I like the face this it felt like a stand alone with minimum mention to the first book in the series, so I didn't feel like I was missing much, since I had not read it. what I didn't like that that the author added to the  story by adding a secondary story of Merula and finding out who she really is.. I felt that it took away from the main story and was just confusing.  Overall all I enjoyed the story and would read more from the Author.

lastly I would like to thank Netgalley and the Publisher for allowing me the opportunity to read this ARC.
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Set on Dartmoor in England, one of my favourite places and a great setting for any mystery. I enjoyed the main characters, Merula and Raven, and the touch of romance between the two of them was well done. Bowsprit was a great character too.

The mystery was quite involved but it came to a satisfactory and rather surprising conclusion. I enjoyed Death Comes to Dartmoor and will look out for other books by Vivian Conroy
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Hi and welcome to my review of Death Comes to Dartmoor by Vivian Conroy!

Many thanks to Vivian for inviting me to request this on NetGalley and to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the eARC!

Merula Merriweather and Raven Royston (don’t you just love a good alliteration!) have just solved a murder mystery and are on their way to Dartmoor. However, it seems that peace and quiet in the country is not exactly in the books for them. A girl is missing and the townsfolk are convinced that Mr Oats, Merula’s and Raven’s host, has something to do with it.

Right from the start, Death Comes to Dartmoor struck me as very atmospheric. It felt to me like a combination of an Agatha Christie novel (because of all the mystery), Wuthering Heights (because of the gothic feel and the moors and rugged landscapes, and some rather peculiar characters) and – and bear with me here, kids, this is going to sound strange and rather unconventional – Beauty and the Beast. That part where Belle walks around the forbidden part of the castle, and there’s that eerie music, and everything seems strange and malevolent? That. That vibe is exactly what I got from Death Comes to Dartmoor, when Raven and Merula wander around Oats’ house and find jars with dead animals and a kraken to boot.
In an author’s note, Vivian states that it was her love for The Hound of the Baskervilles that made her want to set a mystery in Dartmoor, including a legendary murderous creature. It was hearing David Attenborough speak of the mythological kraken and the giant squid that made her decide that in this story the creature would be a kraken / squid. Reading Death Comes to Dartmoor and the author’s note made me very curious about both The Hound of the Baskervilles and David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, so I’ve listened to the former via Audible and added the latter to my to-watch list. (Full disclosure: I liked Death Comes to Dartmoor much more than The Hound of the Baskervilles)
Oats keeping his kraken on a bath stand was inspired by this famous photograph (Moses Harvey in 1874), by the way.
When Vivian contacted me to ask if I wanted to review Death Comes to Dartmoor via NetGalley, she told me that it’s the second instalment in the Merriweather and Royston Mystery series but that it can be read as a standalone. Having read it, I agree, since there are no spoilers of the first book (The Butterfly Conspiracy) and I didn’t feel like I was missing something vital to the story. However, it’s obvious that the foundations of the mystery surrounding the main characters have been laid in the first book – as well they should be – and I did feel like I was missing a little something there, that maybe I would have related to Merula just a tad more, or feel a little more involved in her relationship with Raven. As it stands, I did like them and we all got along just fine, but I think perhaps at a somewhat more superficial level, if that makes any sense at all. Anyhoo, Merula is quite a character. I always love a strong female character, especially when it’s a young emancipated woman in far from emancipated times, standing up for what she wants, even if it goes against social conventions. She’s got quite the brain too, sharp as a tack she is, and I really enjoyed spending time with her. Merula is haunted by the ghosts of her parents, never having known them, having no memories of them. I found this a nice little side mystery to the main one, and I’m hoping to find out a little more about Merula in the next instalment (and in the first instalment which I happily added to my wishlist as soon as I’d finished Death Comes to Dartmoor).

Death Comes to Dartmoor is a great addition to any mystery lover’s collection, especially if you like your mysteries on the dark, atmospheric side. Recommended!
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Death Comes To Dartmoor is the second book in the A Merriweather and Royston Mystery series.

Merula Merriweather and Lord Royston have set off for Dartmoor to visit with a fellow zoologist and friend of Royston, Mr. Oaks. Mr. Oaks has a rather extensive collection of rare specimens which includes a kraken, a sea monster of myth and legend.

When they arrive Mr. Oaks seems to be rather deranged. Royston with the help of his valet, Bowsprit, get him settled in his bedchamber. They are rather surprised that there are no servants in the house as their visit was expected. They are awakened the next morning by a vicious mob who want to hang Oaks. Mr. Bixby, a neighbor of Oaks, shows up and can calm the mob and get them to leave. He informs Merula and Royston that the maid that worked at Oaks home was found murdered and the mob believes that she was murdered by a kraken that Oaks owns.

As Merriweather and Royston begin to investigate to clear Oaks name they find many suspects may have killed the maid. The spurned boyfriend, Ben Webber seems to be high on the list. Also going on is a battle between some of the residents of the town that want a railroad to service the local community to be in more tourist. The wreckmaster, who has had a stranglehold on the town for many years wants things to stay the way they are. Even the neighbor, Mr. Bixby ranks high on the miss of suspects. Hopefully, they will find the murderer before any other deaths occur.

A subplot to the story concerns Merriweather’s search for the identity of her parents. There are a group of traveling actors near the Oaks home and one of them claims to know who her parents are but is reluctant to share the information with her. Merriweather hopes they will be around long enough to convince the man to tell her what he thinks to know about her parents.

This a well-plotted and told story with an interesting cast of characters. The story’s setting and time seemed to be properly researched and written.
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“Death Comes to Dartmoor” is the second installment in the “A Merriweather and Royston Mystery” by Vivian Conroy. It is a great historical mystery series that takes place during the Victorian era.

The mist-shrouded moors of Devon proffer a trove of delights for two vacationing zoologists—but also conceal a hoard of dark secrets reaching down to the fathomless depths of the ocean.

Miss Merula Merriweather barely saved her uncle from the gallows after he was wrongly accused of murder—and now, she’s left the bustle of Victorian London to recuperate in the fresh air of Dartmoor with her fellow zoologist, Lord Raven Royston. The trip offers a unique treat, as they’ll be staying with a friend of Raven’s, who owns a collection of rare zoological specimens—including a kraken, a sea monster of myth and legend.

But all is not right in the land of tors, heaths, and mist. Their host’s maid has vanished without a trace, and the townspeople hold him responsible, claiming that his specimens are alive and roam the moors at night, bringing death to anyone who crosses their path. Merula and Raven are skeptical—but the accusations become more ominous when they find several specimen jars empty.

As the two hunt for clues across a desolate and beautiful landscape, a stranger appears bearing a shadowy secret from Merula’s past. Could there be a connection between her family history, the missing girl, and a fearsome monster that could be on the loose? The race is on to find the truth.

The characters are well developed and likeable. The description of moors in Devon was realistic and in true spooky fashion. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep me wanting to find out what will happen next. The book is engaging from start to finish, grabbing you from the very beginning.

I highly recommend this series but I also suggest that the books be read in the order they are written.

I requested and received an Advanced Reader Copy from Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This is my first’ Merriweather and Royston mystery’. This is a standalone mystery, and there is sufficient backstory to place the characters, and their relationship in this story, but if you can, read book one first.

The Dartmoor setting of this novel plays on the Victorian belief that strange, dangerous creatures roam the moor in the darkness. This is not the Dartmoor I know, but it is well documented in Victorian literature like ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

This story contains all the essential elements of a Victorian murder mystery. Enigmatic, intelligent, but flawed detectives, with a degree of emotional damage. A community steeped in folklore and tradition, and a dislike of outsiders or anyone who is different from them. An undercurrent of criminal activity, and gruesome murder, possibly due to supernatural causes.

The mystery that unfolds in this story has all of the above. There is much we do not know about our detectives, but they are complex individuals. Victorian pioneers, a little before their time, especially Merriweather. The mystery is well constructed and embellished with Victorian beliefs and themes, that make solving it difficult.

The writing style and time period, will not suit everyone, but it is faithfully represented, and worth reading, to see if it is for you.

I received a copy of this book from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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After reading the first book in the Merriweather and Royston Mystery series by Vivian Conroy, I’ve been looking forward this second installment, Death Comes to Dartmoor.  And, once again, I wasn’t disappointed.  

Merula Merriweather has temporarily relocated to the English countryside in order to recover from injuries she has sustained. She is accompanied by Lord Raven who, like Merula, is a zoologist and they will stay with Lord Charles Oak, the owner of an extensive specimen collection.  However, almost upon their arrival, the couple is confronted with a murder and they quickly discover that there is more to it than meets the eye.

This is a terrific series that takes place during the Victorian era.  Merula is a scientist and a woman who marches to her own drummer.  Obviously, this is not the expected behavior of a young woman during this period of time.  Lord Raven and Merula have become colleagues and it’s interesting to watch their relationship continue to develop.  The characters they encounter are varied and unique, and the descriptions of the countryside add to the charm of the book.

I highly recommend this series but I also suggest that the books be read in the order they are written. This will add greatly to the reader’s enjoyment of the series and will be able to understand the references that are made about previous events.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.
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After their adventure in London it has been agreed that Merula Merriweather needs a rest so she travels with Lord Raven Royston to the mysterious Dartmoor. Aiming to exchanging the air of Victorian London for the fresh air and peace of Dartmoor. While staying woth the friend, Charles Oaks, and fellow zoologist, who has a collection of interesting and rare species that Raven is interested in studying.
But all is not well with his friend or the people of the area and soon a body is discovered.
An added complication is that the area has a special meaning to Merculas' past, a past that is hidden from her.
Although the second in the series it can easily be read as a standalone story.
I enjoyed this well-written cozy mystery and liked the characters and not just the two main ones. I look forward to reading the next in the series.
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I do so enjoy historical mysteries and when they are set during the Victorian period, well, I have no problem setting aside whatever was on my to do list and get lost in it. Last year I got lost in the first of this series, The Butterfly Conspiracy and it was good enough to rate five stars. Here's to another five star mystery. 
Merula Merriweather is a Victorian only because of the time period. As a person she marches to her own drummer. Her passion is butterflies and she has, with the help of Raven Royston, succeeded in clearing her uncle of a murder charge. He raised her and has acted as her 'front man' regarding the butterflies. That case is now closed and she and Raven are off for a change of scenery. Traveling with them are her maid, Ann Lamb (now her personal companion) and Raven's valet. Bowsprit. They are going to Dartmoor which is one of my favorite places, so much atmosphere that it just begs for a spooky mystery to be spun. I won't go into great detail because of spoilers but this tale has a Kraken in it, believe it or not and the locals are believers. The zoologist who collected this beast is a friend of Raven's. When they arrive at his residence it turns out that his maid has gone missing, later being found dead. Rumors fly that the Kraken got her. Superstitions are the norm and the locals are focusing all of their fear and anger on Raven's friend, Charles Oaks. Will Merula and Raven be able to figure out the mystery before the locals get their revenge? Will there be some progress in the growing romance between Merula and Raven? I don't allow spoilers so brew yourself a cuppa, find a nice comfy chair and settle down for a fun read. I hope that there will be another book to enjoy this time next year.
My thanks to the publisher Crooked Lane and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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I enjoyed the first in the Merriweather and Royston mysteries immensely, and the second one lives up to the promise that this would be a stunning and very satisfying series.

Following on from the events in the first book, Merula Merriweather, under the watchful eye of Raven Royston, heads for the country to recover from the injuries she has sustained as well as getting her out of London for a while. However, before they even reach their destination of Dartmoor there are signs of trouble; it seems to follow them around!

What follows is a puzzling and enthralling tale of intrigue. Not easy to work out, and so much the better for it! With a murder to solve and a friend being wrongly accused, there is plenty for the pair to ponder on and an abundance of characters to suspect. As with all the best tales, there is more than one thread to this tale, and they progress side by side. Not in the least a straightforward mystery, and a worthy successor to The Butterfly Conspiracy.

Vivan Conroy writes many different kinds of mysteries; his 'cosies' are excellent entertainment, his period mysteries always well researched and plotted but I think that this mystery series tops them all. These are utterly superb; true to the time they are set in and gripping, interesting reads. With a little hint at the end of this one as to where they may head next, I cannot wait! In the style of some of the very best mystery writers this is a superb read and one I highly recommend to all those who love a good historical mystery. As such, it is absolutely a five star read!

My thanks to publisher Crooked Lane Books for my copy via NetGalley. All opinions are, as always, strictly honest and entirely my own.
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Vivian Conroy has had a very busy summer. Back in June, I reviewed her latest book in her 1920s Murder Will Follow series (read my review of Honeymoon with Death) and next month I have Last Pen Standing on the schedule. But today, I'm talking about Death Comes to Dartmoor, book two in her Merriweather and Royston Mystery series, which hit the shelves today. And it might be my favorite series from Conroy.

I haven't read book 1 and while the mystery from the book is heavily referenced I didn't feel like I was really missing anything. But I will be going back and reading book 1 The Butterfly Conspiracy, as I can't get enough of this couple. You may remember from my cozy mystery discussion that my favorite cozies often feature a sleuthing couple. 

Merula Merriweather and Raven Royston are a great couple. They are just in the beginning stages of their relationship so it is all cute shyness and not sure if the other thinks they are more than friends.

I'm really glad I took a chance on this novel. I saw it a few times on Netgalley before I finally requested it. The beautiful cover kept catching my eye, but I don't Victorian gothic isn't really a genre I read (because of the horror elements usually found in the novels). But in the end, the cover and my love of Conroy's novels won me over and I LOVED it. 

There is a spooky feel right from the start as the characters share folk legends/ghost stories during the carriage ride to Dartmoor. The spookiness continues with tales of a shipwrecking, murdering creature on the loose. A creature that the villagers believe lives in the house of Merula and Raven's host. 

The murder mystery begins almost immediately in this book which I enjoy in cozy mysteries. Merula and Raven are enjoyable characters who have many secrets, which means it will probably be several books before they truly become romantically linked. Though in the Victorian age, romantic relationships did precede at a quick pace. I also liked Bowspirt, Lord Raven's manservant, and Lamb, who I'm guessing will be a regular character as Merula's maid/companion. An unmarried couple can't be alone, let alone travel, without the lady being properly chaperoned. And there are definitely hints of further travels by Merriweather and Royston.

Like readers have come to know and love in Conroy's Murder Will Follow series, she tips her writing hat to a literary idol. In the case of Death Comes to Dartmoor, she pays tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. 

Unlike in a lot of cozy mysteries, there isn't really any silliness in this story. But it isn't really a serious mystery either. It is a light read, and I did figure out who did it before Merula and Raven uncovered the murderer. I highly recommend this enjoyable, quick read.

My review will be published at Girl Who Reads on Tuesday, Aug. 13. https://www.girl-who-reads.com/2019/08/death-comes-to-dartmoor-by-vivian.html
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This story was very middle-of-the-road for me. The storyline was intriguing and I liked the idea of the mad scientist accused of murder but I didn't take very well to the characters. I seemed as though Merula and Raven didn't have much depth and I couldn't quite figure out exactly what the nature of their relationship is. The Dartmoor setting wasn't particularly special and while I was curious as to how the story would end, and I did finish it, I just didn't feel very satisfied with it overall.
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Less is more. Show not tell. If only an editor would have given these two pieces of advice to Conroy somewhere along the line.

Death Comes to Dartmoor is the second book in the Merriweather and Royston series. I haven’t read the first but I don’t think this caused any issues. I could easily follow who was who and their relationships with each other. Merula Merriweather and Raven Royston (ugh at the alliteration) are zoologists in the 1800s who, in this installment, travel to Dartmoor to visit a colleague who has a collection of exotic animals including a giant kraken. When they arrive, they find a young girl has been strangled and the marks on her neck seem to indicate that she could have been killed by the kraken. Merriweather and Royston obviously dismiss this fanciful idea and set out to solve the mystery.

It sounds pretty good on paper, doesn’t it?

Show not tell… There is an awful lot of characters standing around talking in this book. Pretty much everything happens off screen. The kraken murdering people, for example, should have had a nice creepy gothic feel but... Unfortunately Conroy doesn’t actually add any gothic chills into her descriptions. Neither does she use the moors to their full advantage in this respect.

Less is more… Along with the kraken killer (now that’s a better alliteration) there is a plethora of characters and ideas thrown in to be red herrings (I assume) that just become mixed up and after I finished the book I realised some of them are not only unnecessary but their lack of resolution annoyed me further. Railroads and wreckmasters, Tasmanian Devils and meteor showers, acting tropes and missing parents. Too much. 

The major subplot is that of Merula’s search for her parents. It had one nice touch I wasn’t expecting but, other than that, it didn’t excite me too much. 

Conroy attempted to add in some UST between the two leads. Usually a good thing but in this case it was sudden and forced and just didn’t work. I also wondered why no one questioned these unmarried pair travelling alone together. For the period, I found it inappropriate. I suppose this did give Conroy a chance to include Merula’s ladies maid, Lamb, and Raven’s valet, Bowspirit. Bowspirit adds to the problems I have with the ‘less is more’ and ‘show not tell’ adages by going undercover to detect in disguise. Lamb does her bit by becoming the bait to draw out the killer. *sigh* 

After finishing the book, I googled Conroy and find the lack of information regarding her (him?) rather weird. She/he has a huge list of works and yet I can’t find much information around her/him at all. 

I didn’t find anything grammatically incorrect about the books nor could I find fault in the Victorian Era terms either. Plus, like all Conroys books, its cover is gorgeous. I will probably give Conroy another go but for this book I wish there'd been editing and someone to chant in his/her ear - less is more, show not tell.

2 ½ out of 5
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I liked the previous instalment in this series but this one fell flat.
The main characters are well written and likeable but I found the plot confusing and it didn't kept my attention.
Not my cup of tea.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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An unusual pair and a terrific setting make this a great read!  Merula and Lord Raven are zoologists.  She specializes in butterflies, of all things.  They've been invited to visit Lord Charles Oak, who has a collection of interesting specimens.  Just as they arrive however, his maid, Tillie, who has been missing, is found dead and it looks,  at least to the villagers, as though she was killed by a bracken!  Seriously.  There's more to Lord Oak's collection than meets the eye and, of course, there's an opportunistic murderer out there.  Merula has some darkness and uncertainty in her background that is explored here- just a bit.  I'm a particular fan of Merula, who is overcoming a lot to follow her scientific (and other) interests.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  Perfect for fans of historical mysteries.  I'm really looking forward to the next one!
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2.5 stars rounded up to 3.

I wanted to like Death Come to Dartmoor more than I did. The story begins shortly after the events of The Butterfly Conspiracy but can be read as a stand-alone. However, I greatly encourage reading the previous book. Merula’s friends and travel companions’ backgrounds are not well fleshed-out here, so they’re definitely better understood having read the first book.

The mystery had such great potential, especially using the moors as a character unto themselves, but I feel it missed the mark. Too many unreliable suspects and a villain that was a bit of a stretch for me.

I did enjoy delving into Merula’s past, gaining some insight into her parentage. If I do decide to read the next book, it will be primarily for this reason.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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I chose to read this Victorian historical mystery purely because of the Dartmoor location, an area that brims with mystery, atmosphere, superstitions, myths, smuggling and legends. This was an alright read, but it missed the mark for me, although I am well aware that many readers will love it. There were still aspects of it I enjoyed it, and it begins with amateur zoologists Merula Merriweather and Lord Raven Royston travelling with his valet, Bowsprit, and her personal companion, a promotion for Ann Lamb, only to encounter trouble in the form of the wreckmaster and a search that requires them to take a different route to their destination, the village of Cranley, and an acquaintance of Raven's, Charles Oaks, with his extensive exotic zoological collection in his home. On arrival, they find an extremely agitated Oaks and a missing maid, Tillie, that turns out to have been murdered.

The locals blame Oaks and his malevolent zoological specimens claiming one of them, the kraken, a sea monster, is responsible for Tillie's death, with it apparently travelling by the river and roaming the area as it seeks victims. Events become rather hairy when a mob of baying locals turn up intent on burning the house down and wanting to get hold of Oaks. So the stage is set for Raven and Merula to begin looking at this puzzling mystery, despite the fact they had been looking for a vacation to recuperate from their last taxing case that had involved Merula's Uncle Rupert. This is a case that takes in railway speculators, the odd locals, gossip, superstitions, and connections with Merula's past and family when a stranger turns up with clues to her secret past. 

It may well have been that I was not in the right mood to read this, but for me I was faintly exasperated with a narrative that meandered too much, characters that had insufficient depth, and a positive irritation with Merula's personal companion, Lamb but I did enjoy the location and it was a quick read. I think there will be many other readers who will be more appreciative of this book. Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books for an ARC.
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was delighted to be pre-approved for Death Comes to Dartmoor, thank you to the Publisher and Netgalley for this privilege.

I haven’t heard of this series before so was coming to the novel as a new read.  You can read this as a standalone novel, but due to the references to the previous mystery I did begin to feel that I may have missed something.

Merula Merriweather and Raven Royston travel to Dartmoor to rest after their previous mystery solving.  As often happens they become embroiled in another mystery that needs solving.  There is a murder that needs solving, locals who are superstitious and a local mob that want their host to hang for his apparent involvement in the murder.

All this must be solved by Merula and Raven, amid Merula’s underlying passion for her travelling companion.

For me I would recommend reading the books in order so as to understand the constant references.  A decent read but I found myself skim reading to the end.
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After the exhausting events of The Butterfly Conspiracy, amateur zoologists Merula Merriweather and Lord Raven Royston decide to recuperate in the quiet of Dartmoor. Raven has corresponded with a Mr. Oaks, another amateur who claims to have many specimens of interest. His valet, Bowsprit accompany Merula and Raven, and her maid, Lamb, mostly to lend an air of respectability. Upon arrival in the village of Cranley, they find it in an uproar over a missing village girl. Even worse, Mr. Oaks is a suspect in her disappearance, and the man himself is behaving oddly, to the point of raving at times. When the girl is found murdered in odd circumstances, Mr. Oaks is arrested.  Merula and Raven set out to prove him innocent.

I wanted to like Death Comes to Dartmoor much more than I did. There is a surplus of suspects who might have wanted Mr. Oaks out of the way, and I found it difficult to sort them. Railway speculators, shipwreckers, jealous suitors and the superstitious villagers themselves play a part. The second mystery is that of Merula's parentage, which I did find interesting, but ultimately frustrating in its lack of progress. Also, frustrating is the sheer number of coincidences involved and the mystery of the girl's murder solved by setting a trap, which put the maid in danger.

Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.
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