The Family Vault (A Sarah Kelling & Max Bittersohn mystery) Mass Market Paperback – 2 Jan 2002
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"- "The screwball mystery is Charlotte MacLeod's cup of tea." -Chicago Tribune - "Charlotte MacLeod does what she does better than anybody else does it; and what she does is in the top rank of modern mystery fiction." -Elizabeth Peters
About the Author
Charlotte MacLeod (1922-2005) was an international-bestselling author of cozy mysteries. Born in Canada, she moved to Boston as a child and lived in New England most of her life. After graduating from college, she made a career in advertising, writing copy for the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company before moving on to Boston firm N. H. Miller & Co., where she rose to the rank of vice president. In her spare time, MacLeod wrote short stories, and in 1964 she published her first novel, a children's book called Mystery of the White Knight.
In Rest You Merry (1978), MacLeod introduced Professor Peter Shandy, a horticulturist and amateur sleuth whose adventures she would chronicle for two decades. The Family Vault (1979) marked the first appearance of her other best-known characters: the husband and wife sleuthing team Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn, whom she followed until her last novel, The Balloon Man, in 1998. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The action begins when doddering old Great-Uncle Frederick Kelling has finally shuffled off his mortal coil. Even in death, he causes problems for the rest of his Boston Brahmin relatives by refusing to be buried next to his late wife. His will specifies that his body is to be interred in the historic family vault on Boston's Beacon Hill. Sarah, who is the lowest Kelling on the family totem pole, has been delegated to be present when the vault is opened, so it is she who discovers the skeleton of a long-disappeared burlesque dancer with rubies in her teeth, stashed in among the ancient Kelling coffins.
This mystery has more creative twists and turns than the rest of the series put together. There is also a touching love story as Sarah and Alexander, her much older husband (who is also her cousin--the Kellings intermarried as much as legally permissible in order to keep the money in the family) slowly begin to unravel the mystery of the murdered stripper, and in the process draw much closer to each other. It also has one of the most unusual villains--someone you will love to hiss and boo at--in the entire mystery genre.
When young Sarah is confronted time and again with the evil machinations of her closest friends and relatives, she puts on her mother's best black hand-me-down dress, and whips up another batch of cheese puffs. You just can't help loving her.
With this series, I would definitely recommend starting with this book first - otherwise stuff in the second book has you scratching your head.
Aside from those familiar with other volumes, I would think that entirely new readers with a taste for well written mysteries not of the blood and guts, police procedural or overtly sexual types are likely to find the book good reading as well. It is not the best of the series nor is it among the less appealing (there are no 'worst', in the sense of bad, books among those she has written). Of course, as the reviews prove, not everyone who likes the category of mystery into which her works fall will like the book.....but many will.
Things finally got interesting near the end where there were some interesting plot twists and revelations that really had my interest. Unfortunately, in my view, it took too long to get to the exciting and engaging content.
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