Charlotte MacLeod (1922-2005) was a prolific and successful mystery writer, better known in the US than the UK, so it is great to see some of her work released on kindle. She was the author of two major series under her own name - Professor Peter Shandy (known as the 'American Hercule Poirot', first book in series Rest You Merry (Professor Peter Shandy)) and that featuring Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. She also wrote several stand alone novels as well as two cozy series set in Canada, her birthplace, under the pseudonym Alisa Craig.
Set in Boston, The Family Vault, introduces the character of Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn. Sarah comes from an old Boston family and lives in a huge old house with her much older husband Alexander, also a cousin, and his deaf and blind mother Caroline. Caroline is difficult and dominating and the old family retainer, Edith, frankly rude and disagreeable. Sarah feels she lives more as a child than a wife, with no control of her own money and a life which revolves around Caroline and her friend Leila, who is married to Alexander's friend Harry. When we meet Sarah she is doing one of the many family jobs - supervising the opening of an old family vault, long closed up, which a Great-Uncle wanted to be buried in. However, on opening the vault, a body is found in there - recognised by a bystander as a local exotic dancer, Ruby Redd, who vanished years ago.
Shocked by what she has found, Sarah begins to investigate what happened to Ruby so long ago. She is a resourceful and likeable heroine and when she is introduced to Max Bittersohn, a writer who wants to enlist her to do some artwork for him, she finds she begins to rely on his help. When long held family secrets are uncovered, Sarah finds herself in a great deal of danger and there is nobody else she can trust. In a way, this is very much an introductory novel, where we meet the characters and the stage is set for further books. There are quite a few in the series:
The Family Vault (1979) The Withdrawing Room (1980) The Palace Guard (1981) The Bilbao Looking Glass (1983) The Convivial Codfish (1984) The Plain Old Man (1985) The Recycled Citizen (1987) The Silver Ghost (1987) The Gladstone Bag (1989) The Resurrection Man (1992) The Odd Job (1995) The Balloon Man (1998)
Sadly, I see that the second book, The Withdrawing Room, is not yet published on kindle. Hopefully, the publishers will release them all, as this is a great series and it is always nice to read the books in order. If you have never read this series before, then I hope you enjoy it. It will appeal to anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries and possibly authors such as Carolyn G. Hart or Katherine Hall Page.