The mist-shrouded moors of Devon proffer a trove of delights for two vacationing zoologists–but also conceal a hoard of dark secrets reaching down to the fathomless depths of the ocean.
Miss Merula Merriweather barely saved her uncle from the gallows after he was wrongly accused of murder–and now, she’s left the bustle of Victorian London to recuperate in the fresh air of Dartmoor with her fellow zoologist, Lord Raven Royston. The trip offers a unique treat, as they’ll be staying with a friend of Raven’s, who owns a collection of rare zoological specimens–including a kraken, a sea monster of myth and legend.
But all is not right in the land of tors, heaths, and mist. Their host’s maid has vanished without a trace, and the townspeople hold him responsible, claiming that his specimens are alive and roam the moors at night, bringing death to anyone who crosses their path. Merula and Raven are sceptical – but the accusations become more ominous when they find several specimen jars empty.
As the two hunt for clues across a desolate and beautiful landscape, a stranger appears bearing a shadowy secret from Merula’s past. Could there be a connection between her family history, the missing girl, and a fearsome monster that could be on the loose? The race is on to find the truth.
Hi and welcome to my review of Death Comes to Dartmoor by Vivian Conroy!
Many thanks to Vivian for inviting me to request this on NetGalley and to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the eARC!
Merula Merriweather and Raven Royston (don’t you just love a good alliteration!) have just solved a murder mystery and are on their way to Dartmoor. However, it seems that peace and quiet in the country is not exactly in the books for them. A girl is missing and the townsfolk are convinced that Mr Oats, Merula’s and Raven’s host, has something to do with it.
Right from the start, Death Comes to Dartmoor struck me as very atmospheric. It felt to me like a combination of an Agatha Christie novel (because of all the mystery), Wuthering Heights (because of the gothic feel and the moors and rugged landscapes, and some rather peculiar characters) and – and bear with me here, kids, this is going to sound strange and rather unconventional – Beauty and the Beast. That part where Belle walks around the forbidden part of the castle, and there’s that eerie music, and everything seems strange and malevolent? That. That vibe is exactly what I got from Death Comes to Dartmoor, when Raven and Merula wander around Oats’ house and find jars with dead animals and a kraken to boot.
In an author’s note, Vivian states that it was her love for The Hound of the Baskervilles that made her want to set a mystery in Dartmoor, including a legendary murderous creature. It was hearing David Attenborough speak of the mythological kraken and the giant squid that made her decide that in this story the creature would be a kraken / squid. Reading Death Comes to Dartmoor and the author’s note made me very curious about both The Hound of the Baskervilles and David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, so I’ve listened to the former via Audible and added the latter to my to-watch list. (Full disclosure: I liked Death Comes to Dartmoor much more than The Hound of the Baskervilles)
Oats keeping his kraken on a bath stand was inspired by this famous photograph (Moses Harvey in 1874), by the way:
When Vivian contacted me to ask if I wanted to review Death Comes to Dartmoor via NetGalley, she told me that it’s the second instalment in the Merriweather and Royston Mystery series but that it can be read as a standalone. Having read it, I agree, since there are no spoilers of the first book (The Butterfly Conspiracy) and I didn’t feel like I was missing something vital to the story. However, it’s obvious that the foundations of the mystery surrounding the main characters have been laid in the first book – as well they should be – and I did feel like I was missing a little something there, that maybe I would have related to Merula just a tad more, or feel a little more involved in her relationship with Raven. As it stands, I did like them and we all got along just fine, but I think perhaps at a somewhat more superficial level, if that makes any sense at all. Anyhoo, Merula is quite a character. I always love a strong female character, especially when it’s a young emancipated woman in far from emancipated times, standing up for what she wants, even if it goes against social conventions. She’s got quite the brain too, sharp as a tack she is, and I really enjoyed spending time with her. Merula is haunted by the ghosts of her parents, never having known them, having no memories of them. I found this a nice little side mystery to the main one, and I’m hoping to find out a little more about Merula in the next instalment (and in the first instalment which I happily added to my wishlist as soon as I’d finished Death Comes to Dartmoor).
Death Comes to Dartmoor is a great addition to any mystery lover’s collection, especially if you like your mysteries on the dark, atmospheric side. Recommended!