Death Comes to Dartmoor

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

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.
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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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"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."

A fearsome monster on the loose in Dartmoor? My Sherlockian heart beats for joy!
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Merula and Raven have come to Dartmoor to take some rest and recovery time after their first case. It should be time for quiet walks and scientific explorations of Raven's friend's collection of exotic creatures. But they arrive to find things in chaos. Raven's friend is raving, his maid is missing, and an angry mob is ready to burn the house down.

When the maid turns up dead, apparently strangled by the Kraken Mr. Oaks brought back from his travels, Raven and Merula have to find the real murderer before Mr. Oaks is executed for the crime. Between the Wreckmaster who is trying to hold onto his power and the new Guard who want to see the railroad come to the are bring tourists aplenty, Merula and Raven have lots of suspects.

Add in the stranger who seems to know about Merula's hidden past but who is unwilling to share what he knows with her. Merula has always felt an emptiness where her past is concerned. Left as a baby on her aunt and uncle's doorstep has strongly affected her life and choices. This is one mystery that she really wants to solve. 

This was an entertaining story with lots of action as Merula and Raven investigate. This is the second book in a series and I think we are just beginning to understand Merula and Raven. Their characters are being gradually revealed both to each other and to the reader.
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I think it may be me tiring of Victorian-era reading than the actual book. A decent read and a good mystery about two zoologists travelling to Dartmoor to escape London for a while. Merula and Lord Royston (she, the forward-thinking-yet-restrained-by-her-gender gentlewoman, and he, the darkly-brooding-lord of the manor-love interest) travel to visit a friend of Lord Royston's, an eccentric zoologist who collects specimens from around the world to study.

There is talk of shipwrecks (with a mysterious wreckmaster discussed but never met - or was he actually the man who took Merula's sketches?), rumours of a hideous monster, a Kraken that drags ships and those aboard into the depths, the murder of a young maid who worked for their host, and a slightly untrustworthy neighbour.

Merula and Lord Royston get pulled into the mystery when their host is arrested for his maid's murder. There is more to this than meets the eye, and they must sift through gossip, superstition and the statements of self-interested parties to find the truth. A decent read, but I think I have to give the Victoriana a rest for awhile as the properness of behaviour, speech and action are getting tiresome.
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The second in the Merrieweather &Royston series, Death Comes to Dartmoor is a 19th century mystery surrounding the strange disappearances and death of young village girls. As zoologist Merrula and Lord Raven attempt to solve the case, Merrula learns more about her strange origins.

Author Vivian Conroy provides enough information about the characters that this could be read as a standalone. Albeit the mystery is a bit on the silly side, I did enjoy the story enough to reach the end. 

Goodreads review: 22/06/19
Expected publication: 13/08/19
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A smartly written historical thriller in the vein of Arthur Conan Doyle. There are plenty of red herrings in this investigation into murder, suspicion and superstition amongst the moors of Dartmoor. 

Merula Merriweather and Lord Raven Royston have arrived in Dartmoor to visit an acquaintance, Lord Oak, who has invited them to see his zoological collection. They discover that a murder has been committed and the novel centres on their attempts to uncover the culprit. To say any more would involve spoilers. 

The characters are entertaining and plot moves at a good pace. My one slight gripe, as a British reader, is that it does have an American slant to it in terms of spelling and terminology. That said, it was an enjoyable read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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My first read from this author and I've been looking forward to this. Love the cover too.

Merula and Lord Raven are both zoologists but they also share a history of detecting. Having saved one person from the gallows they now search for mythical creatures in the wilds of Dartmoor in the home of the reclusive Oaks. What they encounter is not exactly what they were looking for. A young woman working in the house has been found murdered with the marks of the kraken around her neck and the villagers are out for blood.

How Raven and Merula jointly try to uncover who and what and why of this senseless murder is the story. Village life in all its detail - superstitious, incredulous to the outsider and how to bring justice about is painstakingly done in this story. 

I liked the Victorian setting but I also liked Merula's modernity and the touch of romance over hanging the whole story though nothing actually materialised in this one. Lets hope it happens in the next!
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Another good entry in the merriweather and Royston mystery series. The mystery was interesting though a bit confused at times, I would recommend to any mystery lover
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Shortly after I started reading this book, I was thinking perhaps I had made a mistake in requesting to read it.  But it does come from Crooked Lane Books, and I have always liked their offerings, so I persisted.  And I’m glad I did!

What caused my early doubts?  With the Dartmoor setting, a distinct Hound of the Baskervilles flavor, an eerie mansion, and the presence of some exotic creatures, I was thinking it had more of a “things that go bump in the night” tinge than I generally like to deal with in my reading material.

But while these atmospheric features are certainly present, the story is centered on characters that I came to like.  There is a sense that both Merula and Raven are courageously dealing with past experiences, while going forward with determination in aid of the puzzling circumstances they are faced with.

I found this a very enjoyable read, and I will look forward to learning more of the adventures of these two central characters.  It seems certain they will face more mysteries, and there is a brooding chemistry between them that promises revelations to come.

My thanks to author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing an advance copy to read and review.
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Even the carriage ride to Dartmoor for Merula and Royston suggests that something is not quite right in the area where they will be visiting. Hot on the heels of saving her uncle from the gallows, Merula and Royston decide to visit one of his friends who supposedly has gathered many zoological oddities from his many trips to different exotic places in the world. Their host’s maid has gone missing, and the townspeople believe that those specimens that he has come to life and roam the moors at night, wreaking havoc. What is going on at Dartmoor?

The author has a great way of setting up suspense and scenes. On the carriage ride at the start of the book, suspense is set in motion right away when the carriage is not allowed to pass on a road near the cliffs. Clearly, somebody doesn't want what is happening on the beach to be seen. The description of their host’s home is very nearly Gothic. A giant bat is seen outside before they even get in. The host has no servants, so the whole manor is in a bit of disarray—and more than a little bit creepy. I thought Merula and Royston played well off each other. They both have distinct personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. I love the dry humor and banter between them.

If you enjoy historical suspense with creepy things that go bump in the night (and creepy villagers fomenting to become a mob), you may very well enjoy this engaging book.
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A murder mystery set in Dartmoor in the late nineteenth century. Reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes if Warson was a young lady. Fun read.
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Death Comes to Dartmoor is the 2nd book in the Merriweather and Royston Mystery Series by Vivian Conroy.  The story centers around the mysterious murder of a girl, whom the villagers immediately believe was killed by Merula's and Raven's current host, Oaks.  Oaks is known for his house full of zoological specimens and its existence stirs fears, gossip, and rumors in the nearby village.  Merula and Raven wish to help their host out and find the real culprit, so they use their knowledge, power and deduction to help find clues and whittle down the list of suspects.

For me, what always sets these type of mysteries apart from one another are two things:  1) are there other stories and plots occuring outside of the main mystery and 2) how is the mystery actually solved within the story - meaning is it just told to us or do we as readers get to look at the clues ourselves and make assumptions and guesses, even if the characters can't hear our ideas.

In this story, there are additional stories or subplots that occur that help the readers take a mental break from the mystery at hand as well as help us get to know the characters better and what is important to them.  In this book, this mainly includes a potential romance for Lamb and some clues to Merula's parentage.  I am always thankful when there are backstories and subplots in mysteries as it makes it more enjoyable for me and helps me to care more about the characters as well know who they in different situations.

As with any mystery story, writing a review can be difficult since you don't want to spoil anything.  So, what I will say is that I did enjoy the mystery as well as enjoyed seeing the world a little differently than how I see it in my 2019 eyes.  We have so much knowledge and information now right at our fingertips, but at the time of this mystery there was still much learning occurring - in this case zoologically speaking - and no internet to help provide answers to questions that arise.  As far as the mystery goes, the main issue that did call out to me as I read it was that toward the end of the story the main characters seemed to throw out random guesses at the potential culprit without any proof in the hopes to see what would stick.  Although that kind detective work does occur, it seemed to happen too frequently within a short reading time span and the characters didn't really have too much to go on when they did it.  So, all in all I would have liked a little more 'fact' going into that section of the book.
This novel is a delightful read and one of the best things about this mystery is how easy it is to enjoy.  This is what I call a Sunday afternoon read - it is pleasant, enjoyable, and entertaining.  I hadn't read the first in the series and there were at times I wished I had in order to help me understand the relationship between Merula and Raven better, but it never kept me from enjoying the book  I do recommend this book and I myself will look forward to reading the next in the series.
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