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It is 1896, and journalist Emmaline Cross is thrilled to have been invited to cover a group of artists who have created a retreat at Newport, Rhode Island in Murder at Rough Point by Alyssa Maxwell. Newport used to be an artists' center but the artists were driven out by the rich crowd like the Vanderbilts that Emma is related to, so it is special to longtime residents like Emma to see artists return. The group of artists come from very disparate media, including the writer Edith Wharton (whose family, the Jones, inspired the saying, "Keeping up with the Joneses"), a former ballet dancer whose injury turned him into a choreographer, a famous cellist, an opera singer, a musical director, and sculptor Sir Randall Clifford who is interested in purchasing the home, owned by Emma's Uncle Frederick Vanderbilt. But the greatest surprise for Emma is the appearance of her parents, who have never come to see her in the four years that they have lived in France doing painting, even when her half-brother was arrested for murder. Thus Emma holds some resentments towards her parents, especially since they seem to be hiding something from her and give hints that their visit is something more than just an art retreat or a visit to their daughter.
Then, the second day, Emma spends time talking with Sir Randall about his discouragement over the negative responses to his sculpture. But this conversation with Emma cheers him up, reigniting his joy in his art. But that night, Sir Randall does not show up for dinner, and an extensive search fails to locate the British nobleman. But the next morning, Emma's spaniel, Patch, starts howling over the body of Sir Randall, whom he has located. People assume the man committed suicide, but Emma is not so sure. Then, when a second man from the artists' group gets murdered, they are certain of danger. Who is after the artists and why?
Murder at Rough Point really held my attention and kept me gripped throughout the whole story. The book had a strong plot, a bit more intense than a typical cozy mystery, but I think that it spans the range of interest of lovers of cozies and those who like a little stronger mystery.
The book does a good job of investing us in the characters, who seemed at first to blend together, but it doesn't take long before they become sorted out in the readers' mind. Each one has clear, distinct features, making us wonder about her or his guilt. I enjoyed getting to meet Edith Wharton as she is beginning her career as a writer (for those not familiar with the famous author, she wrote House of Mirth and Ethan Frome, among others). But the one problem with using historical figures like Wharton, especially in the setting of a so-called locked-room murder, where the suspects are limited to the group of people inside the house, is that we know Wharton went on to become a famous writer and thus cannot have been the murderer.
The book introduced a new character to the series, Patch, Emma's spaniel, who becomes a very real persona in the book. Patch takes on the role of Emma's assistant in detection. He quickly endeared himself to me.
Eva Kaminsky performs the audio edition of this book. She does a good job of making the book come to life and getting us fully invested in the plot. I really enjoy her narration of the series and look forward to hearing her read the next book when it hopefully comes out on audio.
I really had a good experience listening to Murder at Rough Point. The book had a compelling plot that drew me into it and kept me wanting to listen to the book. The characters also made me invested in them and the book. I really didn't want this book to end. I give this book five stars.
What did you love best about Murder at Rough Point?
Aside from the smooth combination of historical novel and riveting mystery, Ms. Maxwell takes on the classic country house mystery, which is always a winner.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Our plucky heroine and sleuth, Emma Cross.
Which scene was your favorite?
I can't pick one in particular, but all of the scenes with soon-to-be famous novelist, Edith Wharton are terrific.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I wait with bated breath for each installment in the series -- they all are some of the best cozies/historical novels I've ever read. As with the others, "Murder at Rough Point" is a real page-turner.
Any additional comments?
Thanks for adding "Rough Point" to Audible! I have some neurological difficulties which make reading difficult, so I really rely on Audible -- I hope to see upcoming books in the series offered.
What did you like most about Murder at Rough Point?
Great characters and a wonderful, damaged, main protagonist - to me, reminiscent of Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike in some way... Let's have the next one very, very soon please.