The Chapel in the Woods

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Pub Date 1 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2022

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Description

Jack and Betty Haldean's weekend in the country is disrupted by sudden, violent death in this intricately-plotted 1920s mystery.

"There's something in those woods that shouldn't be there . . ."

Enjoying a weekend in the country with his cousin Isabelle, Jack Haldean is intrigued to learn that the neighbouring estate of Birchen Bower has been bought by wealthy Canadian businessman Tom Jago. Determined to restore the place to its former glory, Jago has invited the local villagers to a fete to celebrate the grand re-opening of the 17th century family chapel.

But the afternoon's entertainment is cut short by the discovery of a body, mauled to death as if by a wild animal. Previously owned by the eccentric Cayden family, Birchen Bower has a long and colourful history, and is rumoured to be haunted. Is there any truth to the ancient family legend of the Jaguar Princess . . . and could she have claimed another victim? And what's happened to Jago's employee, Derek Martin and his wife, who have disappeared without trace . . . along with Mrs Jago's diamonds?

Refusing to believe the wild tales of man-eating beasts prowling the grounds, Jack sets out to uncover the truth. But then a second badly-ravaged body is discovered . . . Could the rumours be true after all?

Jack and Betty Haldean's weekend in the country is disrupted by sudden, violent death in this intricately-plotted 1920s mystery.

"There's something in those woods that shouldn't be there . . ."

...


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Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781448306459
PRICE US$28.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

There’s Something In The Woods….? The eleventh Jack Haldean murder mystery finds Jack and Betty having their much anticipated, peaceful countryside weekend severely disrupted. There’s something in the woods, it seems. Something that’s not human? As events begin to quickly spiral out of control and bodies begin to pile, can Jack get to the bottom of the mystery this time? Or are the village rumours actually true? Hugely enjoyable and entertaining with a colourful cast of well drawn cast of characters, a solid sense of time and place and bags of atmosphere. A very worthy addition to this excellent series.

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“There’s something in those woods that shouldn’t be there…” Jack Halden, writer and sometime-sleuth, is intrigued when he hears the story of Birchen Bower. While having a break in the country with his cousin Isabelle, he meets Tom Jago. Jago is a Californian businessman who purchased the estate, only for his assistant, who was sent on ahead to prepare the house for Jago’s arrival, to disappear, along with a fortune in diamonds belonging to Jago’s wife. Things soon turn serious when a local legend springs to life. One of the previous owners of the estate brought the so-called Jaguar Princess from overseas to England, and her ghost has long been rumoured to haunt the forest nearby. When a body, mauled to death by a large animal, is found, it seems that the Princess has returned, or, failing that, a savage beast of some description is loose in the woods. But is a human hand guiding the beast? And where will it be guided to next? This is the eleventh Jack Haldean novel by Dolores Gordon-Smith. Those of you lucky enough to have attended the Bodies From The Library conferences will know Dolores as one of the most entertaining of the regular speakers, even – almost – convincing me to give Ernest Bramah another try. She is clearly a student of classic crime mysteries, as evidenced by her talks and – well – this series of mystery novels. And this one in particular. This is one hell of a way to start my year’s reading – if I’d managed to get the review up before the end of last year, it would easily have made it into my “Best Of” post, and without exaggeration, it would have been vying for Book Of The Year. Because it is that good. Where should I start? Well, let’s gloss over how enjoyable Dolores’ prose is, as well as her skill with distinctive characters and a believable lead – or perhaps leads as Betty, Jack’s wife, takes a fair chunk of the spotlight too. Jack is far from infallible, as shown in the section in the chapel – I won’t spoil this outstandingly creepy section, but as the realisation dawns that he may well have been totally wrong about what he is up against, the reader is forced to rethink things as well. It’s edge of the seat stuff, wonderfully written. And the basic structure of the problem Jack finds himself up against is beautifully judged as well. When the villain is presented as a possible ghostly werejaguar, the reader knows it won’t have a supernatural solution, as classic crime doesn’t do that (apart from, most notably, THE BLANKING BLANK) but the reader needs to decide where to place their suspicion. Is there an actual jaguar, tame or otherwise, out there? Is someone human mauling corpses for some reason? By having questions even at that level, it helps keep the reader guessing and looking the wrong way. And was I looking the wrong way? Well, when the villain is revealed, I almost got whiplash! While it made perfect sense as Jack explains to the villain exactly what they had been up to – much to the villain’s annoyance, in another wonderfully pitched scene – with so many little bits suddenly making sense. This is so well crafted, with one particular piece of misdirection late on being beautifully constructed… I know this book won’t be easy to find, if you don’t have access to a UK library – and if you’re in the UK, do use your local library – but as you just might be able to guess, I think this is well worth your time. As I said, I really like Dolores’ books, but this one is easily her best – one of the best mysteries that I’ve read in ages in any subgenre.

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I’ve read several books previously by the very talented Mrs Gordon-Smith and I was pleased to get the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with her protagonist Major Jack Haldean, former Royal Flying Corps hero and present day crime novelist in her latest novel. Enjoying a weekend in the country with his cousin Isabelle, Jack Haldean is intrigued to learn that the neighbouring estate of Birchen Bower has been bought by wealthy Canadian businessman Tom Jago. Determined to restore the place to its former glory, Jago has invited the local villagers to a fete to celebrate the grand re-opening of the 17th century family chapel. But the afternoon's entertainment is cut short by the discovery of a body, mauled to death as if by a wild animal. Previously owned by the eccentric Cayden family, Birchen Bower has a long and colourful history, and is rumoured to be haunted. Is there any truth to the ancient family legend of the Jaguar Princess . . . and could she have claimed another victim? And what's happened to Jago's employee, Derek Martin and his wife, who have disappeared without trace . . . along with Mrs Jago's diamonds? Refusing to believe the wild tales of man-eating beasts prowling the grounds, Jack sets out to uncover the truth. But then a second badly-ravaged body is discovered . . . Could the rumours be true after all? Arthur Stanton, husband of Isabelle knows that the local village policeman would not be experienced enough to deal with this crime so he telephones an old friend, Detective Superintendent Ashley of the Sussex Police, who agrees to come. Ashley asks for Major Jack Haldean, for his help, as, as an amateur detective, he has been involved in solving several previous murder incidents. There are a few red herrings to draw the reader up the wrong path before the dramatic and gripping conclusion is reached. I was really flummoxed before I reached the end of this book as to how it would end and of course I got everything wrong I'm pleased to say.. I was reminded of books by Dennis Wheatley and Stephen Leather by the plot references to satanic rituals in this very exciting story. I look forward to reading many more stories about the exploits of Jack Haldean and also perhaps her Anthony Brooke spy series. Strongly recommended.

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I am so excited about the return of Jack Haldean! I just love this series and The Chapel in the Woods, the eleventh entry, does not disappoint. While visiting his cousin, Isabelle, Jack hears about a fabulous diamond necklace stolen at a nearby estate by Derek Martin and his wife, who have disappeared. Jack also hears rumors about a grave at the same estate, which is supposedly haunted by the ghost a South American princess who can shape-shift into a jaguar. There have been several strange occurrences over the past few years which all seem to point to this legend being real. Initially skeptical, Jack begins to wonder if the story might be true after all. What a great mystery! Although I started to have my suspicions of the culprit eventually, it was very late in the game, and there were enough twists and turns that I was still doubtful about whodunit. I should also add that I really love mysteries with supernatural elements that make you think the answer might actually be that a ghost is the murderer. Maybe it reminds me of Scooby Doo? In any case, I found this to be a ripping yarn! I am pleased as punch at the return of Major Haldean and very much hope that we will not have to wait so long for the next installment.

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