The Chapel in the Woods

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Pub Date 01 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2022

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Description

Jack and Betty Haldean's weekend in the country is disrupted by sudden, violent death in this intricately-plotted 1920s mystery.

"There's something in those woods that shouldn't be there . . ."

Enjoying a weekend in the country with his cousin Isabelle, Jack Haldean is intrigued to learn that the neighbouring estate of Birchen Bower has been bought by wealthy Canadian businessman Tom Jago. Determined to restore the place to its former glory, Jago has invited the local villagers to a fete to celebrate the grand re-opening of the 17th century family chapel.

But the afternoon's entertainment is cut short by the discovery of a body, mauled to death as if by a wild animal. Previously owned by the eccentric Cayden family, Birchen Bower has a long and colourful history, and is rumoured to be haunted. Is there any truth to the ancient family legend of the Jaguar Princess . . . and could she have claimed another victim? And what's happened to Jago's employee, Derek Martin and his wife, who have disappeared without trace . . . along with Mrs Jago's diamonds?

Refusing to believe the wild tales of man-eating beasts prowling the grounds, Jack sets out to uncover the truth. But then a second badly-ravaged body is discovered . . . Could the rumours be true after all?
Jack and Betty Haldean's weekend in the country is disrupted by sudden, violent death in this intricately-plotted 1920s mystery.

"There's something in those woods that shouldn't be there . . ."

...

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ISBN 9781448306459
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Featured Reviews

There’s Something In The Woods….?
The eleventh Jack Haldean murder mystery finds Jack and Betty having their much anticipated, peaceful countryside weekend severely disrupted. There’s something in the woods, it seems. Something that’s not human? As events begin to quickly spiral out of control and bodies begin to pile, can Jack get to the bottom of the mystery this time? Or are the village rumours actually true? Hugely enjoyable and entertaining with a colourful cast of well drawn cast of characters, a solid sense of time and place and bags of atmosphere. A very worthy addition to this excellent series.

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“There’s something in those woods that shouldn’t be there…”

Jack Halden, writer and sometime-sleuth, is intrigued when he hears the story of Birchen Bower. While having a break in the country with his cousin Isabelle, he meets Tom Jago. Jago is a Californian businessman who purchased the estate, only for his assistant, who was sent on ahead to prepare the house for Jago’s arrival, to disappear, along with a fortune in diamonds belonging to Jago’s wife.

Things soon turn serious when a local legend springs to life. One of the previous owners of the estate brought the so-called Jaguar Princess from overseas to England, and her ghost has long been rumoured to haunt the forest nearby. When a body, mauled to death by a large animal, is found, it seems that the Princess has returned, or, failing that, a savage beast of some description is loose in the woods. But is a human hand guiding the beast? And where will it be guided to next?

This is the eleventh Jack Haldean novel by Dolores Gordon-Smith. Those of you lucky enough to have attended the Bodies From The Library conferences will know Dolores as one of the most entertaining of the regular speakers, even – almost – convincing me to give Ernest Bramah another try. She is clearly a student of classic crime mysteries, as evidenced by her talks and – well – this series of mystery novels. And this one in particular.

This is one hell of a way to start my year’s reading – if I’d managed to get the review up before the end of last year, it would easily have made it into my “Best Of” post, and without exaggeration, it would have been vying for Book Of The Year. Because it is that good.

Where should I start? Well, let’s gloss over how enjoyable Dolores’ prose is, as well as her skill with distinctive characters and a believable lead – or perhaps leads as Betty, Jack’s wife, takes a fair chunk of the spotlight too. Jack is far from infallible, as shown in the section in the chapel – I won’t spoil this outstandingly creepy section, but as the realisation dawns that he may well have been totally wrong about what he is up against, the reader is forced to rethink things as well. It’s edge of the seat stuff, wonderfully written.

And the basic structure of the problem Jack finds himself up against is beautifully judged as well. When the villain is presented as a possible ghostly werejaguar, the reader knows it won’t have a supernatural solution, as classic crime doesn’t do that (apart from, most notably, THE BLANKING BLANK) but the reader needs to decide where to place their suspicion. Is there an actual jaguar, tame or otherwise, out there? Is someone human mauling corpses for some reason? By having questions even at that level, it helps keep the reader guessing and looking the wrong way.

And was I looking the wrong way? Well, when the villain is revealed, I almost got whiplash! While it made perfect sense as Jack explains to the villain exactly what they had been up to – much to the villain’s annoyance, in another wonderfully pitched scene – with so many little bits suddenly making sense. This is so well crafted, with one particular piece of misdirection late on being beautifully constructed…

I know this book won’t be easy to find, if you don’t have access to a UK library – and if you’re in the UK, do use your local library – but as you just might be able to guess, I think this is well worth your time. As I said, I really like Dolores’ books, but this one is easily her best – one of the best mysteries that I’ve read in ages in any subgenre.

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I’ve read several books previously by the very talented Mrs Gordon-Smith and I was pleased to get the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with her protagonist Major Jack Haldean, former Royal Flying Corps hero and present day crime novelist in her latest novel.

Enjoying a weekend in the country with his cousin Isabelle, Jack Haldean is intrigued to learn that the neighbouring estate of Birchen Bower has been bought by wealthy Canadian businessman Tom Jago. Determined to restore the place to its former glory, Jago has invited the local villagers to a fete to celebrate the grand re-opening of the 17th century family chapel.

But the afternoon's entertainment is cut short by the discovery of a body, mauled to death as if by a wild animal. Previously owned by the eccentric Cayden family, Birchen Bower has a long and colourful history, and is rumoured to be haunted. Is there any truth to the ancient family legend of the Jaguar Princess . . . and could she have claimed another victim? And what's happened to Jago's employee, Derek Martin and his wife, who have disappeared without trace . . . along with Mrs Jago's diamonds?

Refusing to believe the wild tales of man-eating beasts prowling the grounds, Jack sets out to uncover the truth. But then a second badly-ravaged body is discovered . . . Could the rumours be true after all?

Arthur Stanton, husband of Isabelle knows that the local village policeman would not be experienced enough to deal with this crime so he telephones an old friend, Detective Superintendent Ashley of the Sussex Police, who agrees to come. Ashley asks for Major Jack Haldean, for his help, as, as an amateur detective, he has been involved in solving several previous murder incidents.

There are a few red herrings to draw the reader up the wrong path before the dramatic and gripping conclusion is reached. I was really flummoxed before I reached the end of this book as to how it would end and of course I got everything wrong I'm pleased to say..

I was reminded of books by Dennis Wheatley and Stephen Leather by the plot references to satanic rituals in this very exciting story.

I look forward to reading many more stories about the exploits of Jack Haldean and also perhaps her Anthony Brooke spy series. Strongly recommended.

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I am so excited about the return of Jack Haldean! I just love this series and The Chapel in the Woods, the eleventh entry, does not disappoint. While visiting his cousin, Isabelle, Jack hears about a fabulous diamond necklace stolen at a nearby estate by Derek Martin and his wife, who have disappeared. Jack also hears rumors about a grave at the same estate, which is supposedly haunted by the ghost a South American princess who can shape-shift into a jaguar. There have been several strange occurrences over the past few years which all seem to point to this legend being real. Initially skeptical, Jack begins to wonder if the story might be true after all.
What a great mystery! Although I started to have my suspicions of the culprit eventually, it was very late in the game, and there were enough twists and turns that I was still doubtful about whodunit. I should also add that I really love mysteries with supernatural elements that make you think the answer might actually be that a ghost is the murderer. Maybe it reminds me of Scooby Doo? In any case, I found this to be a ripping yarn! I am pleased as punch at the return of Major Haldean and very much hope that we will not have to wait so long for the next installment.

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A sedately paced novel set between the wars. Although I have never read this long running series, I did not feel at a disadvantage. Likable upper class couple Jack and Betty are having a lengthy country stay in coastal Sussex with a relative of Jack’s. A nearby crumbling estate is purchased by a wealthy North American and his wife, Tom and Rosalind Jago. Everyone in the village is amazed at the purchase, as locals have avoided the place for decades due to the legend of a man and animal killing leopard. Sure enough, shortly after the Jago’s arrive, bodies start piling up. Tension builds slowly with a double twist at the end. A good read.
Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for this advance copy.

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This murder mystery with a shiver of the supernatural is great fun.

Set in the Golden Age of the 1920s it follows the novelist-turned sleuth Jack, his wife Betty and their friends as they try to solve a series of murders in which the bodies seem to have been mauled by a jaguar. Could the legend of the Jaguar Princess buried at the once-neglected Birchen Bower estate in coastal Sussex be true? Is it a descendant of the wild beasts an eccentric owner let loose in the jungle-like woods around the house? Or is a fiednish human hand at work?

The characters are likeable and even though I haven't read any of the prevvious books in this series it didn't take too long to untangle who was who. The writing is lively and whips along at a pace. There are plenty of twists and red herrings and, though I suspected the villain at one point those crimson fish put my off the scent effectively. The reveal at the end would have taken a master detective to work out.

I read it in two evenings and enjoyed it greatly. If you like a classic historical murder mystery this won't disappoint.

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A delightful new addition to the Jack Haldean Mystery Series starring the winsome WWI veteran and set in the UK during the 20s.

A compelling and cleverly plotted whodunit taking place in and around a vast and mostly unkempt estate in Sussex, a sinister affair recently purchased by an American millionaire...

This terrific read possesses all the right ingredients to keep you on the edge of your seat: murders, fraud, imposture, poison, forgery, bastardry and a South American beast roaming around the estate, roaring loudly and wreaking havoc....

A fascinating story full of twists and turns, sparkling dialogues and exquisitely drawn
characters with an ending that left me totally gobsmacked and a bit wary of my big fat orange tabby.....

Highly recommended and to be enjoyed without any moderation whatsoever!

Many thanks to Netgalley and Canongate/Severn House for this terrific ARC

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Many thanks to NetGalley and Severn House for this Advanced Reader Copy and the opportunity to review “The Chapel in the Woods.” All opinions and comments are my own.

A pair of rich Canadians, missing people and missing diamonds, and paranormal “events” in a barely penetrable wood keep Jack and Betty Haldean very busy in this, the eleventh in the series featuring the detective story writer and his wife. The missing people are overseers to the estate that the Canadian has just bought in England. The diamonds belong to the estate-owner’s wife. And the paranormal goings-on have been happening for a while on “Birchen Bower,” where a previous owner supposedly owned a vast menagerie of exotic animals, including a few jaguars, homage to the “Inca Princess” that he supposedly spirited away in his pirate days. To top it all off, a body soon turns up in the locked chapel. And Jack and Betty can testify to hearing some truly unnerving animal sounds. The local villagers are convinced there’s “something in those woods.” Yes, there’s a lot going on in “The Chapel in the Woods.” Try to keep up, folks.

This is quite the romp, as our author brings in psychic research (and a psychic researcher), the police, of course (who don’t appreciate Jack sticking his nose in -- what’s new), and the aftermath of events in World War I. Discovered is a link to illegal goings-on across the pond. Eventually, some of the worst of what humans do to each other -- greed and hurt feelings -- is revealed. Always good motives for murder. Jack’s investigative abilities get a work-out in “The Chapel in the Woods.”

I believe Dolores Gordon-Smith had a lot of fun with this one, tying everything together. In the end, of course, Jack explains how it was done, by who, and most importantly, why.

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Jack Haldean, detective story writer, returns in a new mystery that brings a little murder close to home, at least, his cousin's small village. A very rich Canadian and his wife have just bought Birchen Bower. The property has a very interesting history with a family that was descended from pirates. There are also stories about jaguars and ghosts that haunt the area. But the Jagos bring bad luck of their own with stories of Mr. Tom Jago's secretary, Derek Martin (a local boy), running off with twenty thousand dollars worth of diamonds.
However, they stick around for a bit, even enjoying the village fete. It's just too bad that a body turns up in the chapel on their property. And then there's another. And another. All appear to have been clawed by a big cat. It will be up to the local constable and Inspector Edward Ashley, with some help from Jack, to figure out what exactly is going on.

Four stars
This book comes out March 1, 2022
Follows Forgotten Murder
ARC provided by Severn House and NetGalley
Opinions are my own

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I thoroughly enjoyed this historical mysteries that brought back the Golden Age atmosphere and mixes traditional mystery with folk horror.
I read it in one setting and enjoyed the well crafted plot and the interesting characters.
The mystery is solid, full of twists and turns, and kept me guessing.
Even if it's not the first in this series it can be read as a stand alone.

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You’ll probably have noticed that I’ve done it again – jumped midway into a series, given this is the eleventh book. And while I’m sure that if I’d have read the previous ten instalments, there would be allusions and plot threads that I’ve missed, but having all that go over my head didn’t stop me appreciating this thumping good murder mystery.

The setup is wonderfully familiar – a small social clique when an acquaintance issues an invitation to our plucky protagonist and his lovely wife and they are confronted with an upsetting and mysterious death. Gordon-Smith has a nice grasp of her characters and writes well in the conventions of the golden age of murder mysteries without sounding forced or tongue-in-cheek. The pages flew by as the initial disappearance and subsequent murders became a real puzzle that flummoxed the protagonists to the extent that I became a bit concerned that the denouement would be unbelievably silly – something I hate. I needn’t have worried – there were a cascade of plot-twisting surprises that suddenly had me rethinking the whole situation. I love it when I find myself flipping back through the book to ensure the author hasn’t cheated.

Not only did Gordon-Smith play it absolutely straight, I was then able to see the various clues that she’d seeded throughout that made complete sense now that I understood what was going on. Nicely done! The plotting and whole approach reminded me of Agatha Christie’s writing – and I don’t generally make those kinds of comparisons. All in all, this is cracking whodunit and very highly recommended for fans of the genre. I shall certainly be backtracking and getting hold of more of Jack Haldean’s former adventures. While I obtained an arc of The Chapel in the Woods from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
10/10

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Surprisingly enough but this story kept me guessing till the very end. The Chapel in the Woods is truly a very intricately plotted and set in 1920s cozy mystery.
Jack and Betty Haldean are guests of their relatives in the English countryside. They are helping with the country fete when a gruesome murder interrupts the festivities. This event starts unraveling a whole bunch of events, long-kept secrets, frauds, and name-stealing so quickly at that that Jack and Betty can't do anything but get involved and solve the mysteries as fast as they can.
English country estate, long-closed chapel shrouded in curses and magic, big jungle cats, missing son and hated daughters-in-law, and loads more make a very tantalizing setting for a mystery. Also, as I mentioned before, Dolores Gordon-Smith is so good at plotting, the story kept me in suspense till the very end.
A 5-star cozy mystery.

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