Gavels, Tinsel and Murder is the fourth book in Victoria Tait’s Dotty Sayers Antique Mystery series.
Dotty has now settled well into her new life. She’s studying Appreciation of Modern Art, a short online course conducted by University of Oxford. Her friendship with Gilmore Chapman is slowing turning into something beautiful – love.
Dotty has been tasked with organizing a Christmas Ball and an auction. With the help of her sergeant friend Keya Varma, Dotty is busy decorating the manor where the Ball is to take place. At the same time, she also has an auction to organize – with the help of her friends at the Akemans Antique Auction house.
At the Christmas Ball, one of the auctioneers is found dead with a thread of tinsel looped around their neck. The victim was found near the star attraction of the auction – a famous painting donated by a local aristocrat. The next day, Dotty finds the painting missing. To add to her woes are a series of forged paintings going around.
I have been following this series from the start and I absolutely love the characters and the settings. Victoria Tait knows how to write a perfect cozy mystery peppered with side stories of the recurring characters (personal lives, mainly) and romance. A pet pig named Agatha and a grey British shorthair named Earl Grey steal the show!
The story begins with Dotty arriving late for Gilmore’s guest lecture at Oxford. Post lecture, Gilmore takes her out for a late lunch. At the pub, they meets Jarrod Wilcox, the owner of Cotswold Gallery and Ken Tyler, one of the partners at the Gallery. Jarrod looks disturbed – and Gilmore leaves Dotty to chat with the two men.
At the Christmas Ball and auction, Ken Tyler makes an appearance. Dotty is shocked to learn that most of her friends hate the guy. Ken Tyler has dirt on almost everyone that Dotty knows – and this has resulted in hatred. Hours later, when Ken is found dead near the Lowry painting (which was donated by Lord Stanley-Rudd), Dotty fears the worst – someone murdered him. The killer is one of the guests at the Christmas Ball.
Coming to the personal side of recurring characters, we have a huge development regarding Aunt Beanie (Dotty’s landlord) and her husband Uncle Cliff. Norman, the ex-butler of the Duke and current handyman at Aunt Beanie’s farm, suggests Uncle Cliff be admitted to a care home but Beanie refuses. As the story proceeds, we see Beanie and Norman argue over this.
The plot juggles between stolen painting, Ken’s murder and forgeries. There’s a shocking twist at the end – I did not see this coming. The twist changed a lot of things for Dotty. I am curious to know how Dotty is going to deal with this blow in the next book.
Excellent storytelling. The mystery behind the stolen paintings, murder and forgeries kept me guessing till the end. The killer’s identity was a huge shocker – I had to read it twice to make sure I read it right. Gosh! That hit me like a freight train!!!
If you are looking for a Christmassy cozy mystery, you might want to give Gavels, Tinsel and Murder by Victoria Tait a try. You can read this book as a standalone but I suggest you start from book #1.
I received an ARC from Victoria Tait in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion