Rating: 4.25 stars
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Zach Hellig is a British rock musician whose band was destroyed when a drunk driver killed his dearest friends and bandmates in a car wreck. Zach’s barely able to cope, and has become a recluse in the effort to avoid fan sympathy. Zach begs his agents to find him a remote home with a garden area, so he can plant and heal and learn how to make music again, without Noel and Ricky. He settles on a nearly uninhabitable Pele tower, an old fortified structure near the pristine, Northumberland coast.
Charnbarrow Pele is part of Charnbarrow House, an estate belonging to Robert Ludlow, newly inherited from his late grandfather. Part of the will demanded Robert to sell the Pele tower, with all sorts of stipulations about it not being connected to modern services, put on the power grid, and whatnot. Zach, who finally feels peace in his visit to the Pele, immediately decides he wants it–and has the money to rig up solar power and other conveniences in renovation. What Zach doesn’t learn until after the purchase is that Robert’s mum died while giving birth to Robert in the Pele–and his suspected father was possibly murdered there.
An unsolved mystery is enough of an itch to get Zach thinking about something other than his grief, and the solitude is also a balm. He’s also intrigued by Robert, who has good and bad tempers about the Pele, which Zach now understands. Robert had wanted the Pele to be a shrine to his lost parents, and his bitter, mean-spirited grandfather ensured it would be out of his hands should Robert want to keep his birthright manor house and lands. Robert is a good steward, and the folks all around Charnbarrow’s area sing his praises. So, it’s not long before he and Zach strike a connection. But, the more Zach renovates the Pele, the more he believes the rumors that a man was murdered there, and if that man was Robert’s father, he anticipates Robert to have some strong feelings about it.
This is an interesting read, with a low-key romance and a low-key mystery. Robert’s whole life he’s heard the rumors, but the killer was crafty, and only Zach’s desire to see justice done, and perhaps create some peace for Zach, keeps him exploring. It’s also a distraction for the turmoil that’s happening with Zach’s life. The killer of his dearest friends is currently on trial, and he’s powerless to gain any true closure. The man responsible will serve a short sentence, but that can’t restore Noel or Ricky. Can’t bring music back to Zach’s fingertips. But, Robert’s growing affection could help his healing–if Zach’s investigations don’t ruin everything.
I very much enjoyed the language of this story, because I’m always down for a book that puts me in a locale, and the British English and mannerisms of the characters took me to Northumberland. I felt a part of Zach’s mission, and his therapeutic use of gardening also hit home for me. I liked how Robert was an enigma, and Zach had to learn to read him. Their romance isn’t incendiary, but cathartic. I liked how Zach took charge of his life, even in seclusion. For people who like a bit of romance with their mystery, and really enjoy the British countryside, this was an engaging read.
Based on this review, I purchased this novel ( real book format). Truly, as you said, an engaging read. It made me want to visit Northumberland.
The characters were well developed and the mystery sorta ‘cozy’.
I want that tower.
Really, really, want that tower.
So glad you liked it! I love when a story has a good sense of place, which it sounds like this one does