Cover Image: Death in Castle Dark

Death in Castle Dark

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Member Reviews

I read this one several months ago and can't believe I forgot to come back and say something. Anyway, I really enjoyed this one it was a lot of fun. I like the premise of a dinner theater and the cast of characters is really cool. I even liked it so much I read book two. :)
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Princess Fuzzypants here:  Talk about dinner theatre with a twist.  Nora joins the cast of the troupe that performs in a real castle, where they also live.  It seems like an almost idyllic gig.  When an actor is stabbed in the chapel of the castle, things take a turn to the sinister side.  Nora does not know if there is anyone she can trust.other than the handsome police officer who has been undercover at the castle working another possible crime.  She now doubts even the people who have befriended her.

It is a fun concept.  A dinner mystery theatre in a castle setting.  The characters are diverse and interesting from the two brothers who own and run the castle to the cook who makes the meals and the various cast and crew.  Nora is a great heroine.  She is smart and she is no fool.  She is wise enough to follow her instincts, never trying to tempt fate.  In fact, she tries to avoid confrontation.  But she, like the other characters, get bamboozled by the killer.  It was a surprise to me too.  I did not see it coming.

I liked the mystery, I liked the characters and I liked the book.  I am looking forward to future adventures.  Five purrs and two paws up.
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"And this is why we can charge so much for the Castle Dark experience, and why people are more than willing to pay it, by the way: we hire real actors, we cater elegant dinners, and we give people the experience of total immersion. They are living in this castle, moving from room to room, touching the objects, sitting on the furniture, " part-owner Derek boasted to Nora. 

Nora had recently missed out on a coveted theatrical role and was interviewing for a position at Castle Dark. After touring the grounds, it wasn't a difficult decision to join the cast. Staying in a castle and acting out various stories in which visitors are the ones investigating a crime seemed a rather sweet gig. Until murder becomes a reality and the actors and staff at Castle Dark no longer know who they can trust. 

A detective just happens to have already been retained previously (working undercover as a gardener) so the investigations begin immediately.  Unfortunately, Nora was the one who discovered the body and she is bound and determined to find the guilty party--if it's the last thing she does. And it almost is, as danger approached ever closer.

Death in Castle Dark is a rather lighthearted cozy-type mystery. The prospect of a mansion with secret passageways and opulence all around makes for an entertaining backdrop to murder. With a bit of romance thrown in, readers will find the book to be a worthy escapist novel. There were some passing references to past indiscretions mentioned, but nothing in graphic detail. Overall, it was an enjoyable read--perfect for a crisp autumn day or a companion on a chilly winter evening.
Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Death in Castle Dark from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.
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Veronica Bond/Julia Buckley was interviewed and Death in Castle Dark was featured on Fresh Fiction's Cozy Corner on 9/27/21. Death in Castle Dark is a fabulous start to a new series that I thoroughly enjoyed. https://freshfiction.com/page.php?id=11502
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This novel tells the story of a group of actors who present mystery dinners for groups of "inspectors" who are tasked with solving the crime. The actors have lodgings in the castle in which the dinners take place. When one of the cast members is actually murdered during a performance, the spotlight shines on the cast members. Who is the guilty party? As new information is revealed, including the presence of secret passages and doorways, readers are kept guessing about who committed the crime and why.

The story is told in first person by the newest actor to join the cast. Each character is unique and developed well so readers can keep them separate. The plot moves along to keep readers interested. 

I received this book from the publisher and from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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I have received a NetGalley copy from Berkley Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review. I hate to give a bad review, but I am going to be very honest.

I fell in love with the premise of this book: a real murder within a murder-mystery troupe that performs in an imposing but captivating old castle. What I imagined was "Sleep No More" at The McKittrick Hotel in NYC. That performance was really something. Or, some kind of Agatha Christie. That would be nice, too. However, my reading experience of this novel was nothing like those. Frankly, I was bored to death.

The characters are all very flat. Their relationships and conversations felt like 6th grade. These young beautiful actresses are constantly eating donuts and M & M. Maybe it's a cozy mystery thing, but real actresses (including amateurs) do not eat multiple donuts every morning and the troupe would not allow the chef to serve such meals. Even I haven't had donuts for the last 15 years! I know, I know... it's just a cozy mystery. But some readers including I want a believable fiction. Another thing I couldn't be bothered were romances between characters. Are they 6th grade kids, again? Everybody's emotional age seemed to stop somewhere around it in this novel.

Having said that, I can see some readers would enjoy this kind of sweet cozy mystery. So I added one more stars to my 1.5 star.
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Castle Dark is a cozy, fun loving mystery. Following Nora who has just joined the cast of the murder mystery theater group at the castle. She is paid well, has her own room, meals, and new friends - everything you could ask for. 

Her first performance goes smoothly and Nora is looking forward to her next performance with the new changes from the director. Until her castmate becomes the victim of a real murder, his own. 

The castle sounds beautiful and before the murder itself it sounds like Nora is living the dream. Like I mentioned this is a cozy mystery and you can tell. While I enjoyed the overall story and setting, I did think the characters were a little under developed and I wanted to know more. 

I gave this novel a ⭐⭐⭐ review. I would suggest this novel to those who like a quick and fun read, I understand this is the first in a new series so there will be more to come! 

Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for a honest review 💛
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To be honest I don’t like a lot of cozy mysteries but this one was a little different. It wasn’t your typical nosey woman getting all up in people’s business trying to play detective. In fact Nora wasn’t trying to play detective at all...

The story goes... Nora has just accepted a dream job living and working in an actual castle doing murder mystery dinners.  A job a young theater actress can’t refuse. Unfortunately only a couple weeks and 2 shows in one of her fellow actors is murdered during a dinner. The question then becomes is the killer one of the eccentric cast and residents of the castle? Or did someone sneak in while everyone was distracted? 

Unlike most of the cozy mysteries I’ve seen Nora isn’t actively looking for trouble it just kinda keeps happening to her. She stumbles upon the body and happens into information that she promptly shared with the dashing detective on the case. It was actually refreshing to not be annoyed by characters hiding things from the police and each other for no good reason. Sure there were people with secrets but there wasn’t a bunch of sneakiness going on. You really can’t guess who the killer is everybody acts suspicious and from Nora the new girl’s point of view it’s easy to find everyone suspicious. 

All in all it was good some moments did drag a bit like why did there even need the be a whole scene about Nora taking a bath reading a book and playing with her kittens when nothing interesting was happening?  Still it was good and truly I appreciate the fact that Nora was not a too stupid to live character she wasn’t off investigating things on her own or trying to herself killed or interviewing suspects or anything stupid. She valued her life and that’s refreshing in a cozy mystery because far too often characters just don’t. I’ll be interested in reading other work by the author in the future.
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I enjoyed reading this first book in a new series.  Nora is an out of work actress. She takes a job acting in a murder mystery game in a castle in small town Illinois.  Since the job also includes room and board most of the actors live in the castle and Nora settles right in.  During one game the murder is real.  The police and Nora set out to find the killer.  I really liked the castle setting and the characters.  The mystery was good and there were enough suspects to keep it interesting.  I liked that Nora worked with the police.  It was a quick fun read.  I look for word to reading the next book in the series.  Enjoy
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Nora takes a job in a acting troupe performing murder mysteries at an actual castle outside a small town in Illinois. It is a dream job, it comes with meals, a nice apartment in the castle, a wonderful and a friendly troupe of fellow actors. Things are going splendidly until in the midst of one murder mystery night one of the actors ends up really dead.  Suspicion falls on the castle residents but there seems no motive, Nora stumbles across a variety of clues which she passes on to the good-looking police detective who was undercover at the castle. Will they find the killer before there is another victim?

This is the first in a new cozy series. We have a cast of interesting characters, cute kittens, a happy dog and just a touch of romance.  Nora figures things out naturally, the ways in which she learns relevant information in completely believable and she does not rush off to apprehend the killer herself, she does the realistic thing and informs the handsome police officer of what she finds out when she finds it out. A quick and pleasant read. I look forward to more in this series.
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3.5 stars - One of the better Cozies I've read recently. It has a contemporary setting but with thematic nods to both the Golden Age of crime fiction along with the Gothic Romances of the 60s/70s. **Thank you so much to both NetGalley and Berkley Crime for an eARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!**

"A modern age castle inhabited by actors who perform murder mystery dinners for their guests" was the perfect setting for this delightful and spooky who-dunnit. There's a map of all three floors of the castle (including secret passage ways) in the front of the book which definitely took me back to that golden era of mysteries. All it was missing was the cast of characters with their perfect one sentence byline descriptions ala Agatha Christie. The nod to Gothic Romances and the appearance of a Victoria Holt book also won major brownie points in my book (She is still the queen of twisty turny gothic romance and mystery IMHO) 

It's odd how often I don't care for the main protagonist in cozy mysteries (as compared to other genres) along with much of the supporting cast. I'm happy to say that was not the case in this book, I actually enjoyed the majority of the characters (whether good or bad), there's a could be evil BFF, a romantic interest, an assortment of quirky actors/actresses, the boss who's probably hiding something, the bosses brother (can he really be this nice?), a precocious teenager, and three adorable kittens named Emily, Charlotte, and Anne (yes named after THOSE sisters, another nod to the Gothic).  

Cozy and classic Mystery readers rejoice! A fun new series to get addicted to. I will definitely be picking up the next book in this series and shortlisting this one for a promo spot in my store.
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Death in Castle Dark is the first book of a new cozy murder mystery series by Veronica Bond. Released 3rd Aug 2021 by Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 288 pages and is available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a fun and engaging series introduction set in a creepy and atmospheric Gothic style castle built in Illinois and with an ensemble cast of actors who perform intricately plotted murder mystery dinner theater with audience participants (who play the part of Inspector). One of the performers turns up stabbed (with the dagger, in the chapel). Was it the gardener? The ingenue? The hippie earth mother costumier? There are lots of twists and turns and intertwined backgrounds. Main protagonist Nora is appealing and honest and likeable, and she makes a good amateur detective. 

The actual mystery and story are told interposed with the dramatic scenes and acted scenes which provide a good counterpoint for moving the plot along. Much of the theater dialogue is over the top and reminiscent of Poirot or Wimsey providing a nice contrast to the everyday interactions of the cast and characters. Many of the troupe live on-site in the castle, so there's a fair bit of touring the castle itself, library searches, secret passages, and hidden rooms. 

The language is squeaky clean and there's no sexual content. There is a fairly strongly romantic element included. Most of the violence is off-scene; and the on-page violence is brief and fleeting and used in context. There are multiple kittens and a large dog (named Hamlet, because of course he is). 

The denouement and resolution are well written and satisfying. This is a promising and fun to read cozy mystery series starter and I'm looking forward to the story continuing for Nora and co. 

Four stars. This would be a good selection for library acquisition, book club cozy, or for fans of murder mysteries. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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Nora Blake takes a gig performing at a gothic castle tourist destination. The castle is set up as a immersive mystery dinner theater where all the guests play the detective and actors perform all around them. In return, the performers are paid well, get catered meals and free room/board.  An acting job. New friends. And living in castle? How could she pass it up! (I wouldn't!) When one of the actors is found murdered, suddenly the dinner theater is shut down and the cast is dealing with the police. It's almost like one of their performances came to life....only with a real murder at the heart of it. 

OMG! I love the setting and characters in this book! I had such a good time reading this story. A dinner theater at a castle venue. I wish this was a real place! Take my money! I would participate in a heart beat. And what a dream job! Well....a bit tarnished dream job when one of her colleagues is murdered. But hey -- no job is perfect, right? 

I not only read a digital review copy of this book, but I also purchased the audio book. Immediate purchase -- and very entertaining listen! Narrated by Imani Jade Powers, the audio is a bit over 9 hours long. Powers has a nice voice, reads at a steady pace and gives a great voice acting performance. I highly recommend the audio book! 

This is the first book by Veronica Bond that I've read -- and the first book in this new cozy series. I will be eagerly awaiting the next book!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Berkley (and purchased the audio book as well). All opinions expressed are entirely my own**
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Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele

I really enjoyed this first book in the Dinner and a Murder Mystery series by Victoria Bolt (aka Julia Buckley).  Death in Castle Dark combines the best elements of gothic suspense, including a moody castle, with cozy mystery tropes to make a fresh, delightful mystery.

Nora Blake is obviously talented, but the actress and songstress has had limited success in the Chicago theater world so when a dinner theater gig that includes room and board is offered, she would be crazy to turn down.  She loves the castle, her new home in which the entertainment takes place, her enthusiastic new boss, her work, her secret kittens named after the Bronte sisters, and her fellow thespians.  Everything is going well until one of the actors dies during a performance, stabbed with his prop dagger.  Nora has the unfortunate luck of finding his body in the castle’s chapel.  Surely, someone from outside the walls of the castle is the killer; it could not possibly be one of the actors, right?  Time will tell.  

I like Nora.  She is kind and intelligent, if a reluctant sleuth.  She more or so stumbles across clues than actively investigates, and I wish she was a bit braver, though her behavior is fitting for the heroine of a gothic tale.  She is also a bit of a blabber-mouth, and I wish she had more discretion when spouting her theories about the murder to others.  This gets her in serious trouble at one point.  That said, I enjoy spending time with her and the supporting characters.  I did not think I was going to like Connie, the ingénue of both the cast and the book, but she really grew on me, and I like her budding friendship with Nora.  The supporting characters are bigger than life, as only actors can be, but relatable and interesting.  Detective Dashiell and castle co-owner Paul provide a grounding presence amidst the melodrama.  For a moment I feared Ms. Bolt might be setting up a love triangle…. 

The castle setting is just about perfect.  The secluded location, dark halls and secret passages provide the right amount of creepy atmosphere and suspense.  The mystery is well laid out with suspects and motives constantly evolving.  I did not see the resolution coming.  The pace is a little uneven, sometimes getting bogged down in mundane everyday activities that do not move the plot along.

Death in Castle Dark is a great debut, and I look forward to reading more tales featuring Nora and her fellow performers.  Recommended to fans of classic gothic suspense and cozy mysteries alike.
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I didn't know this was a cozy mystery until I started reading it. I don't like the cozy mystery genre.

The mystery itself is well done, with enough red herrings to keep me guessing. The setting, which mainly occurs at Castle Dark and the surrounding land, is lush and makes me wish to visit for a vacation.

The characters, on the other hand, are dull. Especially the main character. Nora is flat. She gets kittens at one point. This might seem petty, but the unrealisticness of these kittens drove me crazy. She never plays with them. Nora leaves them alone all the time. When she sees them, she just watches them play together. They, in turn, don't destroy any of her furniture by sharpening their claws because Nora didn't buy a scratching post or wake her up in the middle of the night to feed them. Kittens are cute, but they are a lot of work.

Review based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review.
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DEATH IN CASTLE DARK is the first book in Veronica Bond’s “Dinner and a Murder” cozy mystery series. The setting for this series immediately drew me in. Having a castle hosting a troupe of performers hosting murder-mystery parties sounds delicious. Actress Nora Blake is the amateur sleuth in DEATH IN CASTLE DARK, as well as the newbie to the castle. Because everything is so new to Nora, when a murder happens on the premises, fellow actors and miscellaneous strangers all take on a slightly sinister second side making them all plausible suspects. Yay! 

When Nora discusses the job with castle owner Derek Corby, it seems like a pretty good deal – the pay might be spectacular, but she gets meals and a room at the castle free. However, when one of their own is murdered on site, things start to look a little different. I love gothic romances, and this story uses some of my favorite elements from those kinds of stories and combines them with cozy mystery classics. As Nora slowly gets to know the strangers that surround her, they seem welcoming and warn one minute and then somewhat menacing in the blink of an eye. Is it her imagination, or is somebody hiding behind a false persona? I love it. Nora sort of stumbles into the role of amateur sleuth. Rather than having any background as an investigator, it’s her keen observations and ability to read people that give her an edge in discovering the identity of the guilty party. She also attracts a potential love interest. The characters and their interactions with each other make this mystery something special. The castle itself is like another supporting character. The soothing pastoral scenes and vignettes of kitten cuteness serve as a nice contrast to the occasional eerie shenanigans that go on in the castle after darkness falls.

DEATH IN CASTLE DARK has a fun setting, a spellbinding mystery, and hidden wickedness. It was fun meeting Nora’s family near the end of the book. I like how the book gives a decent epilogue and has some follow-up with the characters left standing after the villain is unmasked. I hate abrupt endings, and this book gives readers a satisfying conclusion along with teases for future stories. I can’t wait to read the next installment!
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Nora Blake is excited to start a new acting job set in Wood Glen, Illinois in an old castle called Castle Dark.  She would be part of a murder/mystery theater group.   It sounds both spooky and fun. When she arrives she meets her fellow actors and is quite happy with her decision to accept the job.

Then, tragedy strikes when fiction turns into reality.  One of her castmates ends up murdered.  Nora doesn’t want to be the next victim and, also, fears that one her new friends could be the killer.  She decides to do a bit of snooping to see if she can uncover the truth before another murder takes place.

This is the first book in a new series, “A Dinner and A Murder Mystery”.  As soon as I heard the premise of this book, I knew I had to read it.  I’ve always wanted to go to a murder mystery show, but I haven’t had the chance yet.  So, an armchair visit sounded like the best alternative.  I was right.  

I’ve always enjoyed gothic mysteries and this definitely fit that bill.  The setting put me right into the mood.  I found the cast of characters to be intriguing, quirky and a bit on the scary side.  Nora is the only one I trusted.  I suspected everyone and so did she.  

The author gave us a fast-paced mystery with numerous twists and turns along the way. I was truly captivated and  wasn’t prepared for the thrilling finale.  I didn’t see it coming and was quite surprised by how it all unraveled.   

I hope there will be more books in this riveting new mystery series.






FTC Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a free Advance Reader Copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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DEATH IN CASTLE DARK is the delightful first book in the A Dinner and a Murder Mystery series by Veronica Bond (aka Julia Buckley). I adored the setting because who can pass up an old castle set in an isolated forest and farmland, surrounded by antiques and intriguing actors? With a gothic suspense vibe, reminiscent of Rebecca, I was pulled in from the very start. Protagonist, Nora Blake, is appealing and she comes across as an ingénue, which I found sweet given her chosen profession as an actress. Prone to bouts of kindness, such as taking in three kittens and naming them for the Brontë sisters, she easily befriends her fellow actors/actresses who live and work alongside her at the castle. But things aren’t as friendly as they seem when Nora stumbles across the murdered body of an actor during their dinner and murder mystery gig. A real murder that wasn’t supposed to take place. Ms. Bond does an admirable job weaving together secrets and suspense as Nora tries to find out who wanted the actor dead. The pacing was spot on and there were enough suspects to keep a reader guessing. I’m looking forward to more books in this series that brings to mind some of the master storytellers from bygone years. 
I was provided with an advance copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This was a very clean (and emphasis on light) take on the locked door murder mystery inspired by Agatha Christie. The author does a good job with creating a mysterious, dark atmosphere in a modern day castle and the murder mystery employment setting was a fun twist but I felt the narrative was overly descriptive and it dragged quite a bit. 

If you like a super clean version on a "whodunit" - this is the book for you and the beginning of a series! Enjoy.
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If I mentioned Hamlet and a castle filled with antiques.  It would bring a particular picture to mind.  What if Hamlet were a minor character, and the castle was built in Illinois?

It starts with a dinner party and a murder, but things seem staged, and one of the inspectors is a 13 year old girl!  It sounds like a delightful bit of dinner theatre...a murder mystery inside a genuine castle, and every client gets to play the detective inspector.  And you're right there for just the price of a book!

The story is deeper than dinner theatre.  Our
story's point of view is Nora; a lovely actress who needs a job and a place to stay.  The hours are great, the food amazing, and the scenery is idilic.  Everything seems great, everyone is friendly and happy to have her there.  Is her new friend overplaying it, or genuine?  And her new boss left out a few details.  As she learns more, she begins to suspect that this might not be the perfect summer job.

Fortunately, you're not personally in danger, but Nora is.  Who would target the only new addition to the cast and castle?  Can she even trust Hamlet?  He skulks in the shadows, follows people silently, and appears as if out of nowhere.  Yes, Hamlet is cool.  He's a dog, and often part of the cast.  (He may object to being called a minor character, but there are no small parts in stories or acting--only small actors--as they say.)

There are a couple of problems almost immediately apparent:  

First, the castle is very expensive to light, so when there are no clients, Nora is advised to keep her phone charged to act as a flashlight, and it's uber spooky.  (All the better for getting into character for mystery dinners and weekends, my dear!) 

Second, secrets are nearly as thick as dark clouds gathering for a storm.  Some secrets are okay to keep, but others will change lives or end them.

Third, this is a murder mystery for us, so the death is yet to come, and the killer could be the person in the room next door, or the person Nora is practicing lines with.  (And she can't hear our warnings or suspicions.)

Suspect everyone, you should--and will--in this suspenseful, fun, keeps-you-guessing mystery!    

I give this 5/5 stars for being a clean mystery with depth, interesting characters, a mystery I didn't quite solve, and a castle that isn't in Europe!

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the free preview of this great ebook!

#DeathinCastleDark #NetGalley

Tags:  Gothic, Castle, Actors, Hamlet, Secrets, Spooky, Idilic

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The review was posted here on May 19, 2021:

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