Cover Image: Agony Hill

Agony Hill

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Member Reviews

Absolutely Loved this quiet novel set in a small town in Vermont in the mid 1960s. it has great characters with real depth, a town with some secrets, real world issues slowing encroaching on the town's rural isolation and bringing more crime. Can't wait to find more books like this one.

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This was my first Sarah Stewart Taylor book and I was drawn to it because of the time period and the fact that it was listed as historical fiction and mystery & thriller. While I loved the atmospheric setting and the era in which the story takes place, the mystery and character development fell flat. There are many characters within this story that felt unnecessary and their appearances slowed the pace quite a bit for me. I considered DNFing this point at the 40% mark but ended up skimming through to the end just to see if my suspicions about the ending were true. For the most part, they were, though I'd hoped for more emotion and excitement.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for allowing me the opportunity to provide my honest feedback on this ARC.

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A slow burn mystery set in Vermont in the 1960’s. It’s character driven and the mystery just sets us up to learn about the people. An enjoyable read!

I received an early copy through Netgalley, but all opinions are my own.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
A well-written novel with likable characters with a great setting in rural Vermont. Loved everything: the storyline, characters and location.
Looking forward to more mystery adventures with Detective Warren.

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While this story is a bit of a slow burn, I really enjoyed the writing and storytelling. The different POVs were interesting and I truly did not anticipate where this story was going.

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A terrific novel that captures a rural community in the 1960’s with detailed finesse. The narrative never disappoints and the characters were wonderfully depicted. I loved it. I could imagine the town and its environs with clarity due to the author’s superb descriptions and technique.
The issues discussed are still contemporary and the author handles them with aplomb. Thank you for sending me this notable book. Most importantly, the author was able to bring all the strings of the narrative to an ending that made perfect sense.

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Though I enjoyed Agony Hill, it was a very slow read. The characters were likable and plot was okay but nothing very memorable.

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The following review was posted on Goodreads on 04.04.24:

I enjoy Taylor's Maggie D'Arcy mystery series, so I was all in for this series debut. It's a quieter novel than others I've read by the author, without a lot of action or suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat. In fact, there was never a time in the book that I couldn't have set it down and walked away. I did finish it. Overall, though, AGONY HILL was just an average read for me.

Warren is a likable hero. He's sympathetic, kind, and determined to get justice for those who are wronged. And...that's sort of it. There's not much else to him. He's a simple character without any complexity or hidden depth. The other characters are similar. They're nice, but they're not very original or exciting. This is the first book in a new series, so presumably, more will be revealed about all of them that will help them feel more rounded and intriguing.

The book's plot is similar. It hinges on a simple whodunit premise, which is interesting enough, but not overly so. The pacing doesn't help. It's sllllooowww. Not a ton happens in the story and the Big Reveal at the end isn't much of a surprise, both of which makes AGONY HILL a bit of a dull read. Taylor's prose feels rather wooden in this novel, too, which doesn't help.

While I liked AGONY HILL overall, I also found it boring and forgettable, hence the three stars.

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There's a lot going on in Agony Hill, and it focuses on Franklin Warren, who has been reassigned to the State Police in Vermont. He had been assigned to the police in New York, and he is still suffering from the tragic murder of his late wife, Maria, wondering who killed his beloved. The book takes place in the early 1960s and therefore incorporates the effects of the Vietnam War, the coming of an interstate that will affect, mostly negatively, the community, and finally, relies on his expertise to identify what happened to a local farmer, Hugh Weber: was he killed or did he kill himself?

Oddly, there are also people in Bethany, Vermont, the rural setting for this mystery, who discuss their connections having worked in intelligence in Cairo, the point of which is never quite clear. Ultimately, it turns out that Hugh Weber was a man of great wealth which not even his wife, pregnant and mother to four boys was aware of. She is intriguing, and we know that somehow she will survive and even thrive. Another character of note is Alice Bellows, a neighbor of Warren's and another Cairo connection. There is also a young wanderer camping in the woods who needs help and sustenance.

Few writers could have combined all of these characters so adeptly and with such care; Sarah Stewart Taylor creates a rural place of beauty and mystery, and the characters in the book somehow stand out individually and as members of a community, and the reader wants to always know more about them and their motives and desires. I definitely look forward to Taylor's next book and the characters who remain in Bethany, Vermont especially Warren, an engaging and likeable person.

Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.

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The synopsis had me jumping at the chance to read Agony Hill: unfortunately the book was lacking a strong plot and character development.

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Entertaining in the cozy mystery genre. I didn’t find it a compelling story and it was fairly easy to figure out how the story would end. I suspect romance between a few people in the next title of the series as it certainly seems set up for that.

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I liked this one and especially the setting and time period. I felt engaged with the story and characters. It was a good read

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The first book in a new series by this author introduces Franklin Warren who has moved to a small New England town to recuperate from the murder of his wife in Boston. The murder of a local man in a barn fire is his first case and introduces him to the town people. Anothe prominent character is Alice Bellows, an amateur detective who has secrets of her own. I might have missed something with the latter character as I was left wondering more about her than Franklin Warren. The turbulent times of Vietnam are also introduced in the storyline which I found very interesting. A good read , I plan to go back and read the author's other books

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I very much like the author’s Maggie D’Arcy series and I was happy to receive an ARC from Netgalley and the publisher.

This book, set in rural Vermont in the 1960, did not disappoint. The cast of characters was terrific and I enjoyed how they were introduced to the reader as Warren started investigating the murder of Hugh Weber. This book felt very wholesome in a number of ways and at times I felt like the time period could have been much earlier than the 60’s. If this ends up being the first in a series, I will definitely keep reading.

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A New York investigator, Warren, relocates to quite Vermont and begins working to solve the mystery surrounding a suspicious death. The story takes place during the Vietnam draft, but those themes are not developed in the story. Warren has some troubled past, which also is not well developed. As the story concludes, and the mystery solved, I didn't feel like I knew the characters well. For this reason I am assigning 3 stars.

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I eagerly anticipated the publication of Agony Hill by Sarah Stewart Taylor. Her Maggie D’arcy series was exceptional and I was expecting this one to be, as well.
I found this book dragged in places and didn’t hold my attention; I kept picking it up and putting it down.
Franklin Warren, a Boston detective has come to the Bethany state police force. As soon as he arrives, there is a fire on Agony Hill and Hugh Weber is found deceased inside his barn. Was it murder or suicide? He leaves behind a pregnant wife and four young boys. Hugh came from a wealthy family but decided to buy his farm and live off the land which was a hardship for his family. But he was determined to make it work. And Hugh was not very well liked in the community, always trying to stir up the people with his views on the new Interstate that was coming to close to Bethany.
It seems a lot of the townsfolk have secrets, along with Warren’s neighbour, Alice who likes to play amateur detective.
As I mentioned, the book dragged for me. Perhaps I was in the mood for something more meatier, I don’t know. It was well written: descriptive characters and settings. It flowed along, perhaps meandered.
If you’re looking for a soft mystery, Agony Hill will be for you.

Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur Publishers for my eARC copy.

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Secrets are everywhere in Bethany, Vermont. Frank "Warren" Warren, a 30-year-old widower from Boston, is just getting settled in town when he's called--unexpectedly-- to go to work. Warren is a detective and a farm on Agony Hill has just had a fire. A body has been found.

Alice Bower, a 55-year-old widow from Washington, D.C., has also moved to Bethany and is very interested in her new next-door neighbor. She has secrets, too. Her husband was a spy. Alice knows how to get information about people. She knows how to tell if someone is watching her. Someone is. She cannot guess why.

Warren sees someone in the trees and unsuccessfully tries to catch him or her. Others in Bethany know who it is but they aren't saying. Is he the arsonist? The thief who is worrying the shop owners in Bethany, the miscreant Alice is trying to find.

"Agony Hill" by Sarah Stewart Taylor is the first volume of a new series. This story is set in 1965. The characters seem like real people, and most are very likable. The mysteries are intriguing.

I enthusiastically recommend "Agony Hill." I did wonder whether Taylor anticipates a younger audience. Early in the book she describes Alice as elderly. I then had a mental picture of her. Not much later I had to formulate a new mental picture when I learned that Alice was only 55! I thought that was the tail-end of middle age. Anyway, no harm done.

I'm looking forward to learning more about Alice, Warren, and several of the other residents of Bethany, Vermont, who look as though they might reappear in Taylor's series.

Thanks to NetGalley for the Advance Reader's Copy.

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Agony Hill introduces us to Frank Warren - a Boston police officer who has relocated to Bethany Vermont.

And so the mystery begins with a fire in a barn and a cast of characters that might have some mysteries of their own!

The writing is very good, the story is very compelling, and the ending was not at all what I expected and I love it when that happens!! I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series! I highly recommend!

A huge thanks to Netgalley, St. Martin's Press and Minotaur Books for the digital copy of this book! This book will be published August 6, 2024.

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I found this book to be very slow. I skimmed a lot of it and don't feel like I missed much in doing so. The characters were flat and the mystery not very engaging. The whole story had a sort of dark atmosphere that I believe was supposed to be suspenseful, but it came off more as depressing - not that I expected a murder mystery to be sunny and cheerful, but still. I also guessed the plot point about Warren and his love interest form the very beginning.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend reading this one unless you like a little bit of mystery with a lot of filler about small town Vermont.

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Agony Hill is the first book in a new series featuring Franklin Warren. Set in 1965, Detective Warren leaves Boston because of a tragedy in his own life and moves to Bethany, Vermont as a State Police Detective. There is a barn fire on his first night there, and Warren is charged with determining if the death of Hugh Weber was suicide or murder. Weber was found in a room in the barn that had been locked from the inside, so while things seem clear at first, they become murkier on further investigation.

There are a whole host of suspects and others living in Bethany, and it is a lovely quaint setting with excellent descriptions of Vermont. Several of the characters (like Alice Bellows and Arthur Crannock) seem extraneous and a distraction in this novel, but they may become more important in subsequent volumes. I enjoyed this initial novel and getting to know Franklin Warren and his neighbors and colleagues in Bethany, and would consider reading subsequent entries in the series. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Thanks to St. Martins Press/Minotaur Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book. It will be published on August 6, 2024.

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