Title: Peril at Pennington Manor (Avery Ayers Antique Mystery #2)
Author: Tracy Gardner
Published on: 7 June 2022
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Nicholas Pennington, the Duke of Valle Charme and Aunt’s Midge’s friend, asks Antiques and Artifacts Appraised to catalog and appraise the contents of castle-like mansion on the Hudson river. But regal splendor becomes a backdrop for mayhem when a precious Viktor Petrova timepiece disappears and housekeeper Suzanne plummets from a parapet to her death.
Avery, her dad William, and their colleagues Sir Robert and Micah learn more pieces from the mansion are fakes. Someone’s been replacing the originals with poorly-done replicas. Detective Art Smith lends his expertise and with the help of Avery, he will find the perp before it is too late. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when the suspects are either family members or employees of the Duke.
Peril at Pennington Manor is the second book in Tracy Gardner’s Avery Ayers Antique Mystery series.
In the previous book, we saw Avery unravel the truth behind her parents’ untimely death. She also learned her father, William, was in witness protection and not dead as she was made to believe. Once the threat was neutralized, William reconciled with his family and his younger daughter Tilly packed her bags to London.
The story begins with Avery returning home from her daily run. She’s been practicing for the marathon. Her dad’s waiting for her to join him on their latest assignment. They have an interview with the Duke of Villa Charme, Nicholas Pennington. But when they meet with the Duke, he tells them the job is theirs and they can start from next Monday.
Avery and William’s colleagues, Sir Robert and Micah join them on Monday and the cataloging is going as planned when they hear a scream. When they rush out of the mansion, they find Suzanne, the housekeeper, lying in a pool of blood. Meanwhile, Tilly (Avery’s sister) has returned two weeks early from college. She does not want to talk about her early arrival and avoids questions about her college. Aunt Midge comes to the rescue and makes sure Tilly is comfortable before she can talk about her experience in London.
A local detective named Casper is assigned the case of Suzanne’s mysterious death. Detective Art Smith calls Avery to say he’s worried about her. He learns from Casper that Suzanne’s death was no accident and someone pushed her off the parapet. Avery tries to convince him she will not interfere in Suzanne’s death but Art knows very well how involved Avery would be. He takes a couple of days off from work and joins her under the disguise of a colleague.
The Duke’s family members have their own stories. While the daughter-in-law turns out to be a cold-hearted woman, the younger son is quite ‘famous’ for his arrests and addiction to alcohol. The employees at the manor also seem to be hiding secrets. Soon. Avery and her colleagues learn that Suzanne’s predecessor too met with an untimely end. Many antiques from the manor are fakes and the Duke has no idea how or when the originals disappeared. And Suzanne’s death occurred soon after this discovery.
William was under witness protection for a year and he finds it a tad difficult to adjust to his new found freedom. As any trauma survivor would be, William too is marred by the scars of his past – panic attacks and anxiety. Avery is torn between letting go of her previous relationship (with Hank) and wanting to date Art. Detective Art Smith has a ‘problem’ – a mumma cat and her 8 kittens have made his porch their new home. Overnight, Art Smith has become a cat dad.
The highlight of this story is the mystery behind the missing artifacts. Suzanne’s death is currently investigated by the local police but Avery believes the missing artifacts and Suzanne’s death might be related. Avery also discovers a series of hidden doors and secret entrances inside the manor. Did the killer escape through one of these secret passageways?
The Duke’s family are a notorious bunch. Avery discovers a secret or two about each family member – did one of them replace the original antiques with fakes? People would steal or kill for money, you see…
Overall, Peril at Pennington Manor was an engrossing cozy mystery. Excellent character portrayal and a mystery that keeps one guessing till the end. The side stories of the recurring characters made the read even more enjoyable.
If you are looking for a unique and engrossing cozy mystery, you might want to give Peril at Pennington Manor by Tracy Gardner a try.
Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the ARC.