Sunday, 23 April 2017

Book Review: THE BODY IN THE ICE BY AJ MACKENZIE (Historical Murder Mystery)

Published by Zaffre on 20 April 2017

On the frozen fields of Romney Marsh stands New Hall; silent, lifeless, deserted. In its grounds lies an unexpected Christmas offering: a corpse, frozen into the ice of a horse pond.

It falls to the Reverend Hardcastle, justice of the peace in St Mary in the Marsh, to investigate. But with the victim's identity unknown, no murder weapon and no known motive, it seems like an impossible task. Working along with his trusted friend, Amelia Chaytor, and new arrival Captain Edward Austen, Hardcastle soon discovers there is more to the mystery than there first appeared. 

With the arrival of an American family torn apart by war and desperate to reclaim their ancestral home, a French spy returning to the scene of his crimes, ancient loyalties and new vengeance combine to make Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor's attempts to discover the secret of New Hall all the more dangerous.

The Body in the Ice is the second in the Hardcastle and Chaytor mystery series - the first The Body on the Doorstep I reviewed here.

I loved the first book and I eagerly looked forward to reading this and wondered whether it would be as good ..... and I'm so pleased to say that it is every bit as good as the first book.

It was wonderful to be back in the company of the irascible Reverend Hardcastle and the ingenious Mrs Amelia Chaytor as they attempt to discover the identity of the frozen body in the icy pond of New Hall on Christmas Day 1796 and why they were murdered.

Hardcastle is now the Justice of the Peace which has curtailed his drinking and his argumentative nature somewhat but then when his sister turns up unexpectedly to stay at the Rectory he becomes his usual grumpy self. One of my favourite scenes is when she invites Mrs Chaytor for tea and they act like two adversaries checking each other out.  Brilliant writing!

The desolate and empty New Hall is at the centre of this story, the murder was committed there, a family return to live there after many years away, some of them involved in the Americas War which caused a family feud.  Why have they returned now, is it connected to the dead body, and what secrets does the New Hall contain?

Rev Hardcastle and Mrs Chaytor try to find all the answers by coming up against old foes, old acquaintances, lies and secrets. 

They make an unusual and unlikely team but it really works.  You don't need to have read the first book as this is a standalone story.

This was an enjoyable and clever storyline, slow suspense with twists and shocks and surprises with great characters, lots of historical detail and even a dog called Rodolpho that was one of the stars of the story.

I can't wait for the next mystery with the Hardcastle and Chaytor duo.

Also, I must just mention how I love maps of areas in books and this had not only a map but a floor plan of New Hall and a family tree.  So useful to refer to and which added to my enjoyment.

Thanks to the publishers Zaffre and Net Galley for giving me the chance to read this book.

Available to buy from Amazon UK - Amazon US - Book Depository

Meet the Authors

AJ MacKenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingston and Morgen Witzel, an Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife team of writers and historians.

They write non-fiction history and management books under their own names but 'become' AJ Mackenzie when writing fiction.

They can be found at their website - twitter 

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