Cover Image: Murder at Mallowan Hall

Murder at Mallowan Hall

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Member Reviews

A brand new series with lots of potential. First the characters. There’s Phyllida Bright, housekeeper, dedicated fan of Hercule Poirot, amateur sleuth, and keeper of a secret from her past that has her shying away from reports and publicity. Then there’s Mr. Dobble, the butler, who finds Phyllida too young, too unconventional, and definitely too red-headed. He’s old school and wants to stay that way which would require Phyllida to give up her preference for pastel colored clothing, cover her hair so her head wasn’t quite so bright, and, while she’s at it, get rid of those infernal cats to whom he is allergic. Add to these Mrs. Puffley, the cook who has a temper and tends to throw things when she gets riled, Dr. Bhatt, the village doctor who at the very least seems to admire Phyllida, and Bradford, the chauffeur, who insists he’s just Bradford, not Mr. Bradford, and seems to watch Phyllida with a mixture of humor and frustration. Readers will hope to find these characters continuing on in the series with more information given so they can get to know them better. Of course, there are the two most famous members of the household, Max Mallowan and Agatha Christie Mallowan who only appear in brief cameos in this novel and that may be the best inclusion for them.

This book loosely centers on the murder of an unexpected houseguest who turns out to have lied about his occupation and his reason for being at Mallowan Hall. Phyllida almost immediately decides the police will need help solving his murder and she is just the one to provide it. After all, she is a dedicated fan of Hercule Poirot and she possesses quite competent grey cells of her own. Her penchant of being well organized should serve her well as she gathers clues and works toward solving this murder.

The plot is an intricate one, requiring a large cast of characters and a number of twists and turns. As Phyllida gathers information she is frustrated on a number of occasions when the clue or individual with information disappears just before she is about to learn something important about the case. This makes for a plot that at times seems to be slightly disjointed, but maintains the reader's interest. As the series develops and characters become more established, there is increased potential for the plots to become tighter and the pace, which is somewhat relaxed in this novel, to become even faster.

Overall, this book is entertaining and an excellent beginning for a new series. I look forward to future books where I hope to get to know some of the principal characters better, including finding out more about Phyllida’s past secrets as well as why she seems so confident in the permanency of her job. It’s intriguing that Phyllida will join Agatha in her room for a cup of tea and a chat. What is their past that has created a relationship that is closer to friendship than employer-employee. Additionally, what has happened to make Bradford such a loner and will association with Phyllida eventually have the effect of making him more social?

All in all, this is a series worth watching. I would like to thank Kensington Books for an advanced copy for this review.
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With just the right amount of suspense and intrigue, this novel has been one of my favourites this year!

The novel has excellent pacing and held my interest throughout as we follow Phyllida Bright (Housekeeper of Agatha Christie’s Mallowan Hall) as she tries to solve a gruesome murder.

Colleen Cambridge introduces well-written and diverse characters throughout the novel which ensured the story never felt boring. The descriptions of Mallowan Hall were so vivid and appealing that I wished I was there despite the idea of a murderer being on the loose!

A truly great read for fans of murder mysteries!
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"The first in an exciting new historical mystery series set in the home of Agatha Christie.

Colleen Cambridge's charming and inventive new historical series introduces an unforgettable heroine in Phyllida Bright, fictional housekeeper for none other than famed mystery novelist Agatha Christie. When a dead body is found during a house party at the home of Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan, it's up to famous author's head of household, Phyllida Bright, to investigate...

In this delightful new historical mystery series, Phyllida Bright, housekeeper and amateur sleuth, discovers a body in the library - and a mystery to baffle even her famous employer...

Tucked away among Devon's rolling green hills, Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright, as efficient as she is personable, manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses...

The manor is home to archaeologist Max Mallowan and his famous wife, Agatha Christie. Phyllida is both loyal to and protective of the crime writer, who is as much friend as employer. An aficionado of detective fiction, Phyllida has yet to find a gentleman in real life half as fascinating as Mrs. Agatha's Belgian hero, Hercule Poirot. But though accustomed to murder and its methods as frequent topics of conversation, Phyllida is unprepared for the sight of a very real, very dead body on the library floor...

A former Army nurse, Phyllida reacts with practical common sense - and a great deal of curiosity. It soon becomes clear that the victim arrived at Mallowan Hall under false pretenses during a weekend party. Now, Phyllida not only has a houseful of demanding guests on her hands - along with a distracted, anxious staff - but hordes of reporters camping outside. When another dead body is discovered - this time, one of her housemaids - Phyllida decides to follow in M. Poirot's footsteps to determine which of the Mallowans' guests is the killer. With help from the village's handsome physician, Dr. Bhatt, Mr. Dobble, the butler, along with other household staff, Phyllida assembles the clues. Yet, she is all too aware that the killer must still be close at hand and poised to strike again. And only Phyllida's wits will prevent her own story from coming to an abrupt end..."

Firstly, I'm here because I'm here for everything Agatha Christie. Secondly, I'm here because this is just another pseudonym of the wonderful Colleen Gleason!
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Colleen Cambridge's Murder at Mallowan Hall marks the start of an amusing series that I hope will be long-lasting. Phyllida Bright, our "detective," is housekeeper for none other than Agatha Christie. Phyllida is one of those characters who is quirky and entertaining from the start, and I think she's going to become even more fun to spend time with as this series progresses. She has quite a high opinion of herself, is generally kind to the staff see oversees, but always keeps a bit of distance that leaves her seeming strict and formidable.

Max Mallowan (Christie's second husband) and Mrs. Agatha (as the servants address her) are holding a weekend party for a small group of guests. It's a stormy night, and when a reporter, who claims he has an interview with Mrs. Agatha, appears at the door, he's invited to spend the night.

The next morning, Phyllida discovers his dead body in the library. Quickly convinced that the local officer and Scotland Yard Detective investigating the case are incompetent, Phyllida decides she must solve it herself.... 

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
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Excellent story featuring Agatha Christie as a secondary character. Our amateur detective is Phyllida Bright, friend of Mrs. Christie's who works as the housekeeper at Mallowan hall which the Grande Dame shares with her second husband Max Mallowan. An avid reader of her friend/employer's books, who, we're led to believe, even makes suggestions that Mrs. Christie utilizes, Phyllida decides to use her little gray cells when an unexpected guest to weekend house party is killed in the library. Then a second murder occurs, and the fear mounts. Phyllida is a good choice for a detective in a country house setting--she straddles upstairs and downstairs, so can be privy to conversations and encounters with the guests in multiple ways. We're used to middle-aged, brusque or silent housekeepers, and Phyllida, with her bright red hair and flowered dresses that sound almost couture, is anything but a staid, gray, disapproving, uniformed servant. The hint of a possible future romance with Bradford is appealing. The writing is good, the pace and setting are perfect, parodying the weekend country house murder mysteries Agatha Christie was known for. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to lovers of mysteries, cosy mysteries, and Agatha Christie. (Net Galley)
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Reviews posted
Goodreads: September 11, 2021
Storygraph: September 11, 2021

I really wanted to like this book, because the concept seemed really cool, but this book just did not do this for me.  I loved the idea of a murder taking place in Agatha Christie’s house, and was excited to see the authors take on a murder mystery.  

My biggest issue was that it felt exactly like an Agatha Christie novel, I mean exactly.  Everything from how the main character was written to the set up of plot, nothing about this book was new or fresh, which was incredibly disappointing.  I wasn’t expecting anything ground breaking, but I really wanted there to at least be a different take or a new perspective.

Getting through this book was hard, and I defiantly almost stopped reading it multiple times.  I just wish the characters were flushed out a little and the plot to be so similar to Agatha Christie books.  While I understand the author being inspired by Christie, I just wanted more of the authors own voice in the book.
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Set in 1930 Devon where Agatha Christie lives with her second husband, Max Mallowan, this zany and delicious book is full of secrets, lies, twists, coziness, lovely descriptions and quirky characters.  Agatha is always open to murder mystery ideas for her future books which is such a fun idea for this new series.  Her delightful "housekeeper" Phyllida Bright has a thirst for mysteries, with a special predilection for Hercules Poirot.  When a gathering takes place at Mallowan Hall, she has the opportunity to flex her little grey cells.  As a past army nurse, she is not squeamish which is very convenient as death arrives at the mansion and the murder weapon isn't exactly traditional. 

The downstairs perspective is refreshing and fascinating, one of my favourite aspects about this story.  Phyllida's inveigling comes naturally, as does her crazy wit.  As a rabid Christie fan, I wondered how this take would be accomplished.  We all know Christie is practically a genre of her own but Colleen Cambridge works in bits and pieces of historical details yet thankfully has a different writing style which is a good thing.  For this reason it works.  

The first sentence ensnared me.  So did Phyllidaisms throughout.  The historical details are engrossing and the story is almost invigorating, if murder can be such a thing!  

So, if you are at all hesitant about reading a book with beloved Agatha Christie as a character, don't be.  Scoop this up!  The author doesn't pretend to be her.  Not at all.  Plenty of characters to love and loathe.  Perfect for General Fiction, Women's Fiction, Mystery and Historical Fiction readers.  

My sincere thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for the privilege of reading this charmer!  I have a feeling Phyllida will be a new favourite book character for me.  It will be fun to see what lies ahead in the series, including the slivers of romantic interest.
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An unknown man is murdered during a house party at the home of Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan. Their unconventional housekeeper, Phyllida Bright, discovers the body and determines that the police need her assistance to solve the crime. Then another murder occurs. Agatha Christie is definitely a background character in the story but Phyllida uses what she has learned from Agatha's detectives (particularly Hercule Poirot) to bring the investigation to a satisfactory conclusion. Looking forward to the next in the series.
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This was a really enjoyable cozy starter, with the excellent premise of the main character, Phyllida  being the housekeeper at Agatha Christie's home. She has a shadowy past that I'm looking forward to learning more about, but in the present moment she's busy solving the mystery of the man who is found murdered in the mystery author's library. This is filled with bits of household management life of the time period and entertaining glimpses of Phyllida's relationship with Agatha Christie herself. The playful use of a denouement in the style of Hercule Poirot is well done and provides a satisfying ending.
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(3.5)I really enjoyed this story. I thought that it was a fun cozy mystery with a lot of twists and turns. I will say that the amount of character at times felt a bit overwhelming, and the motive behind the murder was a bit to be desired, but other than that I thought that this was a great start to what I think will be a really fun series. I think the more I read books such as this, the less inclined I am to say yes to a house party at a manner haha. But all jokes aside I think that this was a fun read, and a book that I read in a day. I think it has a way of drawing you into this world and truly becoming invested as to who is responsible. I really enjoyed Colleen's writing style and think this will be be a book enjoyed by many. Overall I thought that this was a fun and fast read.
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Received an ARC courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Agatha Christie fans will love Phyllida Bright. 

I enjoyed the setting; manor house mysteries are a favorite subgenre of mine, and I liked seeing so much of the "below stairs" activity and characters, although at times that part of the storyline seemed to overwhelm the "upstairs" mystery action. 
I like Phyllida, although comparing herself and her detecting abilities to Poirot is a bit of a stretch. I also disliked that the reader was not provided with enough information to solve the mystery.
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Imagine working for the famous mystery writer Agatha Christie in her manor house where she lives with her second husband Max Mallowan. Then imagine walking into the library one morning to draw back the curtains only to find a dead body. That is exactly what happens to Phyllida Bright, Agatha’s head of housekeeping in this delightful very British cozy mystery.

As an Agatha Christie fan, I absolutely adored this book, sure it wasn’t perfect, but to imagine an actual murder in the Queen of murder mysteries library is hysterical, almost tongue in cheek. 

There was a large number of servants in the home and several house guests spending the night when the murder happened. Because of the large number of secondary characters, there were times when it was difficult to keep up with them all, but I enjoyed that the story was told mostly from the “ downstairs “ bunch instead of the guest that lived “ upstairs “.

I did enjoy Phyllida, she was what you would expect from the head of housekeeping and a long-time acquaintance with Ms. Chrisies, a bit cold, a bit above the rest of the staff, precise, capable and confident. I think making her extremely friendly would have taken away from her personality. She admired her employer's greatest detective Hercule Poirot, and she took cues from what she knew or thought she knew he would do to solve a crime.

My complaints with the book? There were a few. The choice of murder weapons was a bit of a long shot, and the reveal at the end was as absurd as the weapon of choice. 

The story was entertaining, the writing was easy to read, and this book had everything in it that you would expect from a good British mystery…..murder in a big manor house, noisy servants and of course Agatha Christie…even though in this story she was a secondary character and not the writer.
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A body. In the library. At the home of Agatha Christie? What a way to start a new mystery series! 

Colleen Cambridge joins the ranks of authors reimagining the roles of authors, family members, and sidekicks of famous detectives and introduces us to Phyllida Bright, housekeeper to Agatha and Max Mallowan. Mrs. Bright is every bit as smooth and clever as Marple & Poirot, although with a definite penchant for the Belgian detective. She and Mrs. Mallowan make a formidable team as they work to untangle the mystery surrounding the murder of the mysterious man in the library.

Cambridge includes other wonderful characters among the household staff who I hope will be fleshed out more in future books, especially the cook, butler, and chauffeur. She uses the English house party trope to great effect here, with the murder and investigation occurring over the course of the weekend, and the perpetrator revealed in a classic gather-them-all-together-and-reveal-the-murderer ending. 

I anticipate great success for this series and predict that Phyllida Bright will soon be on the level with Mary Russell and Enola Holmes!

Recommended.
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"Murder at Mallowan Hall" is a mystery set in 1930 in England. Much of Phyllida's past is a bit of a mystery, but she had many of the characteristics of Poirot, including a love of order and logic. She noticed many details that the police missed, and she gathered information from the servant's observations. She passed on information to the police as she came across it, and she was eventually able to puzzle out whodunit. I guessed what was going on before Phyllida, though my main suspect was slightly off. Historical details were woven into the story (mostly about Agatha Christie and housekeeping at the time). Phyllida held very modern views about homosexuality and even lectured others from her morally superior position. Though she's a bit arrogant, I enjoyed the main characters and the mystery kept me puzzling out the clues.

There was occasional use of bad language. There were no sex scenes. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting mystery.
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This was a wonderful series debut—a cozy-ish mystery in the perfect setting for a murder mystery: the manor belonging to Agatha Christie! The queen lives at Mallowan Hall with her husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, and a loyal staff, including the compelling and charming housekeeper, Phyllida Bright, a former army nurse.  Phyllida is as much a friend to Mrs. Christie as she is a dedicated housekeeper and she also has a strong side interest in reading—and solving—mysteries. But can she solve the mystery when a dead body shows up on the floor of her immaculate library floor? The body count increases and Phyllida is helped in her detective pursuits by a charming cast of characters, the town doctor, Dr. Bhatt, the gruff chauffeur and downright cranky butler, Mr. Dobble. 

Phyllida is an absolutely charming protagonist—full of commonsense, certainty of her abilities and intellect and possessing a thoroughly modern mindset. We are rooting for her and she is a heroine worthy of a Christie herself.  I hope we see many of these books in the future!
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A fun Christie style mystery. Great for fans of Downton Abbey. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
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I seem to be reading lots of 'tween books lately - this one is rated by me as between 3.5 and 4 stars with the arrow landing on the 4 because I think I would be willing to read the second book in the series when it is published.

Mrs. Phyllida Bright is the housekeeper at Mallowan Hall, the country residence of Max and Agatha Mallowan (yep, Agatha Christie herself). Phyllida and Agatha have some history which is hinted at but not revealed in this book because it will obviously form the basis of another book in the series. Let's just say that Agatha takes a decided back seat in this mystery solving so if you had hoped to find that line taken in this series you are sure to be disappointed. Phyllida does give Agatha a great plot line for a book she should write based on what happens here: a body is found dead in the library. The murder weapon is so absurd that I still find myself trying to figure out how the murderer accomplished such a perfect.....strike? Even if this novel wasn't written with a tongue-in-cheek meaning, I definitely had to read it with a tongue-in-cheek supposition.

There is a very large cast of characters in this book with plenty of them above stairs, loads of them below stairs and even some living outside the house. A lot to keep track of. There is also a red herring that must have been almost pulverized by the time the book was over from being dragged through the pages. Phyllida is allowed to resort to some pretty silly actions when she begins investigating this murder and her attitude almost of competition for who can solve it first made it hard for me to take the book seriously at times. I'm really hoping some changes in the personality of this sublimely accomplished housekeeper will be toned town somewhat for future books; she didn't exactly give me warm, fuzzy feelings. She also needs to loose her personal comparisons with Poirot and his solving skills. She's got a long, long way to go before she gets to that level.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an e-galley of this novel.
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What a fantastic addition to the historical mystery fiction canon! I was intrigued, but a bit nervous, by the synopsis; including Agatha Christie herself into the book is a high bar. But author Colleen Cambridge avoids the pitfalls of using known entities as a character, making her well-rounded in her fleeting appearances. MURDER AT MALLOWAN HALL instead focuses on the incredible Phyllida Bright, housekeeper to Agatha's household, and a woman with a mysterious past, who takes it upon herself to aid in solving multiple murders that occur at the home. Phyllida is a plucky, smart and determined woman that I rooted for, and look forward to more mysteries with her at the helm. Cambridge amply sets up questions about Phyllida's past and unconventional friendship with Agatha that will undoubtedly draw back readers to future books.
Thank you to NetGalley for the digital ARC.
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Murder at Mallowan Hall  was a great start to a brand new cozy mystery series by Colleen Cambridge. The setting is the home of Agatha Christie. After Christie's longtime friend and housekeeper, Phyllida Bright, finds a dead body in the library, Phyllida takes it upon herself to find out who did it.  Christie takes a back seat, but does appreciate the updates, especially ones she might use in future books. Apparently, being an author of mystery books doesn't mean she's actually  inclined to  solve a murder.  

The writing style brings to mind events in a gentler time; however, Phyllida is definitely spunky and more of a feminist than a long ago passive female.  The author does a great job of characterization fleshing out all the people in the book--especially Phyllida. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
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When a houseguest is discovered murdered at the home of Agatha Christie and her husband Max, it's up to her housekeeper and dear friend Phyllida to solve the case. 

I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie's work, so I was thoroughly intrigued by the idea of using Christie as a fictional character within the plot, and avoiding the obvious choice of her solving the crime herself but instead having her housekeeper solve the crime. Author Colleen Cambridge does an excellent job of providing many twists and turns worthy of Christie herself. Although, this mystery didn't have that air of creepiness that many Christie stories have, I did find the mystery to be very well plotted and executed. The book is full of wonderfully entertaining characters and suspects, and I very much enjoyed the main character of Phyllida. She is a smart, savvy and sophisticated amateur sleuth. 

This is the first novel the Phyllida Bright Mystery series and I very much look forward to reading the forthcoming novels. I want to thank Kensington Books and NetGalley for giving me an advanced copy.
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