Unlike everyone else in Pirate’s Cove, Ellery Page, aspiring screenwriter, reigning Scrabble champion, and occasionally clueless owner of the village’s only mystery bookstore, is anything but thrilled when famed horror author Brandon Abbott announces he’s purchased legendary Skull House and plans to live there permanently.
Ellery and Brandon have history. Their relationship ended badly and the last thing Ellery wants is a chance to patch things up–especially when his relationship with Police Chief Jack Carson is just getting interesting. But then, maybe Brandon isn’t all that interested in getting back together either, because he seems a lot more interested in asking questions about the bloodstained past of his new home than discussing a possible future with Ellery. What is Brandon really up to?
Ellery will have to unscramble that particular puzzle post haste. Because after his former flame disappears following their loud and public argument, Ellery seems to be Police Chief Carson’s first–and only–suspect.
Ellery Page is back in Secret at Skull House, book two in Josh Lanyon’s new series of cosy mysteries set in the fictional Rhode Island sea-side resort of Pirate’s Cove. It’s been a month or so since the events of book one, and things have settled down pretty well for Ellery. When the book opens, everyone in Pirate’s Covet is excited by the news that a famous author of supernatural mysteries – Brandon Abbott – has purchased Skull House, a large, somewhat dilapidated house miles outside town. Well, everyone is excited except Ellery’s assistant Nora, who had hoped the place would be the new home of the local historical society – and Ellery, who had a relationship with Abbott that ended badly several years earlier. Ellery has no desire to see him again, but it’s impossible to avoid him in such a small community – and when Abbott is found dead on the rocks below the house, and Ellery is discovered to be the only beneficiary in his will, Ellery finds himself once again suspected of murder. Only this time, it seems as though police chief Jack Carson is taking the accusation seriously. And that hurts. Jack and Ellery have become friendly over the last month or so, having lunch together once or twice a week, Jack helping with the renovations to Ellery’s home – and when Jack asks Ellery on a date, it seems they could be on the verge of becoming more. But after that night, Jack withdraws abruptly and for no reason Ellery can see, and then doesn’t act to prevent the accusations of murder being sprung on him with no warning.
Alternately hurt, annoyed and angry, Ellery is determined to prove his innocence and starts making enquiries of his own. He discovers there may be a link between Abbot’s death and a murder that occurred at Skull House two decades before, but when he starts asking around the usually garrulous townsfolk are unexpectedly tight-lipped and reluctant to say anything about it. And when Ellery is attacked late at night, it seems that someone wants to keep him quiet as well.
I said in my review of Murder in Pirate’s Cove that I’m not normally drawn to cosy mysteries, but so far this series is working for me. The central mystery here is intriguing and well put-together and the charming, funny, self-deprecating Ellery is a terrific central character, usually the sole voice of reason among all the quirky eccentricity of the other inhabitants of the Cove. The writing is focused and sharp, and the nerd in me likes spotting the cosy tropes and how well the author has incorporated them. A blow is dealt to the burgeoning romance between Ellery and Jack 😦 but they have too much chemistry for things to peter out completely, and given the author has recently announced this is to be an eight book series, there’s plenty of time for the two of them to work things out. There’s much to be said for a slow-burn.
Secret at Skull House is a quick and enjoyable read, and I’m really looking forward to more.