by MJ Colewood
Date Finished: Dec 8, 2016
- I received this book free from the author
It is 1066 and in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings the lifeless corpse of King Harold has been looted. The disappearance of a particular item enrages Duke William, and only one of his knights knows its whereabouts. In his remaining years this knight has to make a decision: will he ever share his secret, or take the greatest enigma in English history to the grave? Centuries later, when Chester Bentley arrives at his new Devonshire boarding school, he is unprepared for the mystery it conceals. The discovery of an age-old riddle lures him and his new friends into a quest to uncover the secrets safeguarded by the stately manor house. Hidden somewhere in the county is an extraordinary treasure and the school holds the puzzling key to its surprising location. But something is lurking in the dark, shadowing them each time they venture out from their dormitory at night, and a ghostly legend puts fear into the bravest of pupils. In their last year at the remote school time is running out; so can they succeed where others have failed, and even died, in a chilling hunt to reveal the last treasure of ancient England?
You’ve probably heard a book claim to be the next so-and-so. You know the next Narnia, or new Lord of the Rings, or next Nancy Drew. Well I often dismiss those claims. Especially since I’ve been let down so many times because the comparision didn’t live up. However, I will dare to make a comparission here… This Chester Bentley Mystery is the closest I’ve come to reading something that captures, as an adult, the feelings I had when reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys as a child.
There is a real sense of wonder, mystery and discovery as you read this book. I felt like I was going on the adventure with Bentely, Montague, Iona, Zara and Q. The pace is much slower than a traditional mystery, yet there is a palpable sense of urgency building through out the book.
The book has three separate story lines that all take part in different times. I was really impressed with the one following the Norman invasion of 1066. I have read multiple books about this time period and never had a Norman character that was as compelling as Richard. Usually the Normans are all cast as bad guys with a serious case of blood lust, and there are those characters too, but Richard is not like them. It was nice to see a character that was three dimensional, and thoughtful.
The only problem I had with the book is what I call the “Harry Potter Effect,” where the book basically praises and reward children for breaking the rules. In fact, if they didn’t repeatedly break the rules the mystery would never have been solved. Add to that, the fact that some of the adults are bumbling and clueless and others are out to get the children, and you have a bad mix. This is just one of my pet peeves. I want to see books set a better example and for writers to find more creative ways to move the plot ahead.
A really good book that mixes a historical fiction of the Norman invasion with a mystery at a boarding school. The mystery had plenty of surprises (in fact I had not guessed which “particular item” it was that disappeared,) the characters were warm and likable, and the pace well thought out. I hope to read more of Bentley’s adventures in the future.