Many thanks to author Ellie DeFarr for gifting me this review copy! This is book #2 in the Hera Hunter series.
Hera Hunter is a private investigator with secrets. She comes from a troubled past, which drives her to create more justice in the world. I’ll admit, in the first few pages where the author introduces Hera’s friend, Gwen Oates, as a “cat burglar” in a completely not-tongue-in-cheek way, I was intrigued. Other colorful characters are Toby, who is her Man Friday and expert computer hacker; Billy, Hera’s sister, who owns a brothel; and Lucky, Hera’s faithful canine sidekick.
Lucky is an unusual addition to this book. I can’t recall ever reading any novel where a little dog was a part of a mystery–at least, not a book where it wasn’t dog-centric. Hera and Lucky travel around together, and he chimes in with a bark here and there to brighten up even the most tense of scenes. Kudos to the author for writing him in! As I read along I could easily picture him in my mind, and it was a pleasant image.
Back to the plot; two women are found dead in Hera’s home town of Centreville. A man named Kyle Dunham is accused–by his own sister Zoey– of being the murderer, and their mother hires Hera to discover who the real killer is (declaring Kyle innocent in the process). Kyle’s sister Zoey is a choleric woman, and her mood swings are legend.
There are a few subplots going, as well. A homeless man is seen in the park and looks uncomfortably familiar to Hera. Gwens’s mysterious new boyfriend is asking a lot of questions. And why are there ghostly voices emanating from the basement in the Dunham mansion?
The characters are written well and the dialogue flows. I was eager to see how everything was tied together, as sometimes I can figure out a mystery’s ending well before the book is finished. The author does a great job of bringing things together, while giving us Hera’s backstory and building up the characters without being intrusive.
As a reviewer, I am always reading 3 or 4 books at a time, and the ones I reach for first are the ones I’m personally enjoying. Melancholy Manor was one of those books. I was truly curious to see what would happen next. Each subplot had a purpose; too many books have things going on in the first third and then you never hear from the characters again. Ms DeFarr’s minor characters are sprinkled throughout the entire story–some with a purpose, nefarious or otherwise; some are there just for color and depth.
The only issue I had was that there was a little too much written about people pouring coffee, choosing what to wear, or driving. Many times Hera was in her vehicle and each and every street name and turn was documented. That really doesn’t take a lot away from the story, but I’m just suggesting that the book could’ve been made tighter by cutting some of that out, as it seemed like filler to me. Otherwise, I have no other complaints about the writing style. All in all, I’m definitely recommending this book. You don’t need to read book #1: Haunting Memories From a Troubled Past, to jump right into Hera’s world, as there were no cliffhangers in that story–but why not? In a series it’s always best to start at the beginning.
Book Three of the Hera Hunter mysteries will be out in 2015, and I’m eager to see what Hera & Co will be up to. I’ll also be posting an EXCLUSIVE interview with author Ellie DeFarr soon–watch this space! In the meantime, why not pick up a copy of Melancholy Manor? You will really enjoy it.