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Friday, November 23, 2012

Audio Book Review: The Crooked Wreath by Christianna Brand

This wonderfully puzzling mystery took more concentration than I expected!
The Crooked Wreath
by Christina Brandt
 David Thorn (Narrator)
Listening Length: 7 hours and 23 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: HighBridge Company Release Date: August 7, 2012
Genre:  Mystery
My Rating: 4.25 of 5.0

Book Description
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
A family patriarch is murdered on the eve of signing a new will
Sir Richard’s family has spent years waiting for him to die, but despite his weak heart, the old man simply refuses to cooperate. In the meantime, he makes their lives miserable by changing his will every few months, depending on which of his strange brood he favors that moment. Now he calls them together to announce his most diabolical revision yet: complete disinheritance of all the wastrels who bear his name. But he never gets a chance to sign the papers—by morning, he’s dead.
Scotland Yard sends Inspector Cockrill, the only detective clever enough to unravel the family’s tangle of jealousy and deceit. Each member had reason to kill Sir Richard, but which one plunged the syringe of poison into his heart? With a family this mad, nothing is as complicated as the truth.

A family of heirs gather to celebrate the holidays.  At the estate live the elderly patriarch, Sir Richard, and his second wife, and former mistress, Bella.  Visiting are the grandchildren, all potential heirs. Grandson, Philip, is a doctor who comes with his practical wife, Ellen, and their baby girl. Arriving with them is Philip’s cousin, Richard’s granddaughter, lonely Claire, who believes that she and Philip are in love and that he will leave his wife for her. Another granddaughter, flighty Peta, is the presumed ‘heiress’ under Sir Richard’s current Will. They pick up Edward, Bella’s grandson, who suffers from one psychosis or another. The latest diagnosis for Edward is that he is subject to ‘unconscious fugues’ (a brief period of amnesia) brought about by looking up suddenly.  Joining the group at the estate is Stephen, Sir Richard’s solicitor, who has been infatuated with Peta for years but feels he has nothing to offer an heiress.

Sir Richard has made a habit of controlling his heirs through changing his Will. This visit is very trying on Sir Richard’s fragile health and Philip, the doctor, shows everyone the medicine, syringe and dosage that should be used for Sir Richard’s weak heart.  Sir Richard is upset to learn about Philip’s affair with Claire, by Petra’s careless mockery of everyone and by the family bickering. He declares that he will disinherit all of the grandchildren and leave his estate to his second wife with restrictions precluding her from giving financial help to the grandchildren.  Bella doesn’t really want the responsibility of the estate which Sir Richard has maintained as a memorial to his elegant first wife.

Sir Richard retires to one of the lodges to await the delivery of the new Will for him to sign.  One or two of the heirs visit him before the garden path is raked and flattened by the gardener. The next morning Claire discovers Sir Richard dead in his chair with no apparent murder weapon, no footsteps and no new Will to be found.

Scotland Yard Inspector Cockrill soon discovers a nest of lies. The heirs seem to have collaborated on a story to protect Edward who may have had a fugue episode, after looking up at a crooked wreath, during which he may have committed the murder. Inspector Cockrill’s questions quickly begin to expose the family jealousies. Everyone had some motive for killing Sir Richard but how was it accomplished? 

Small clues are revealed along the way as theories are tossed out from the heirs against each other. I liked how the mystery clues are cleverly woven into the theories and the reader has to pay very close attention to try to discover the murderer and the method before it is finally revealed by Inspector Cockrill. As an interesting backdrop to the mystery are the effects of WWII on the family members.

Audio Notes: This got off to a bumpy start as I tried to sort our the characters while following the heavy accent of the narrator.  However, once I had the ‘suspects’ in line I thought the narrator did a good job of presenting the different voices and personalities. The reading then was completely enjoyable with the wry, dry humor befitting the British family of eccentrics. This is fairly short listening although it takes more concentration than some lighter tales might. I recommend the mystery and the audio for engaging reading. 


I received this for review from Highbridge Audio through AudioBook Jukebox.
I will add this to my New Author and Audio Challenge Lists.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this review! I have added this to my list to get.


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