Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Secret Staircase - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  The Secret Staircase (Victorian Village #3) by Sheila Connolly

Rating:  Liked It
Source:  Publisher

Description: Kate Hamilton is feeling good about her plans to recreate Asheboro, Maryland as the Victorian village it once was. The town is finally on her side, and the finances are coming together.

Kate's first goal is to renovate the Barton Mansion on the outskirts of town. Luckily, it's been well maintained in the century since the wealthy Henry Barton lived and died there. The only substantial change she's planning is to update the original kitchen so that it can be used to cater events in the building. But when the contractor gets started, he discovers a hidden staircase that had been walled in years earlier. And as Kate's luck would have it, in the stairwell is a body.

After her initial shock wears off, Kate is relieved when the autopsy reveals that the man had died around 1880. Unfortunately, it also reveals that his was not a natural death—he was murdered. And serious questions remain: who was he and what was he doing there?

Kate begins a hunt to identify the man and figure out what he was doing at the Barton Mansion. But when a second body is found—this time from the present day—Kate realizes that real dangers lie in digging up the past...

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I've enjoyed other books by this author and enjoyed the previous books in this series.  

My Impression:  I really enjoy Connolly's writing - especially when she's digging into history in her mysteries.  When that happens you can feel Connolly's personal interest in history and genealogy really come alive.  That is very much the case in this book.  Connolly has been dancing around the edges of figuring out the story of the owners of the beautiful mansion on the edge of town, Henry and Mary Barton, without fully revealing the story.  Because I'm fascinated by everyday people history and genealogy I was fully invested in that story and really enjoyed the book.  

That said the focus on the history of the house pushes the mystery to the backburner a bit and the actual modern day dead body isn't found until halfway through the book.  Even the Victorian Village part gets pushed aside and I found the very casual air of the planning and budgeting of this huge project a bit hard to believe.  Kate is a bit of a wishy washy character and sometimes I just wanted to scream at her to clearly communicate with Josh or for him to do likewise.  

This is not the book to start the series in.  The focus of the book is the Henry Barton story which has been slowly developing over the course of the last two book.  That story is wrapped up here with a bit of a side of mystery. 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Sadly, Sheila Connolly died in April 2020 after a battle with cancer so most likely this is the last book that she wrote.  She was one of the first cozy authors I discovered years and years ago and has given me hours of reading enjoyment.  I do have several books of hers that I have yet to read and am looking forward to reading them.  

Would I Recommend this Book? I recommend this series IF you enjoy a heavy dose of history in your mystery and don't mind the mystery not being the focus.  If you're interested in the series I strongly recommend starting with the first book.  

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *


  1. This sounds so good. It's sad that the author passed away. I do want to read this series.

  2. Oh I didn't know she died in 2020. I like authors to live on and ....I didn't really get into her Irish series that I started. This one sounds good, just as well the Henry Barton arc was completed.

  3. Sorry to read she passed away - always hard for me when an author I've enjoyed will no longer have books to read. Maeve Binchy comes to mind. I really miss her books.

  4. Aw, didn't know she had passed away. I liked that bog series and had wanted to read more.