The Carriage House - Carla Neggers

The Carriage House

by Carla Neggers

Book 1 of Carriage House


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From Wikipedia:

A carriage house, also called a remise or coach house, is an outbuilding which was originally built to house horse-drawn carriages and the related tack.

The blurb of this book had me thinking that it was about a haunted house.  After I started reading the book, I reread the blurb and realized that I might have been mistaken.  Aside from the "human skeleton in the dirt cellar," and the "rumors that the carriage house is haunted," there really was no other indication that The Carriage House  is a book about a haunted house.  Ah well.  Though I DID get curious about what a carriage house is because of the way it was being described as a farm and whatnot.  Thus, the Wiki definition above.

I admit, my research stopped there.  But I might look into it a bit more.  The idea of old, historic homes, whether for people or carriages, still intrigues me.

Moving right along...

The Carriage House  turned out to be an enjoyable, well-written, old-timey romance.  And it isn't too dated either, although there were a few quibbles I had here and there about the way people acted towards one another.  On the other hand, the romantic suspense part of the story was a little flimsy since there really wasn't much murder mystery to the murder crime.  From the beginning, you pretty much know who the human skeleton in the cellar belongs to, and the murderer is pretty obvious as well.

But some of the parts of the book DID give me a creepy vibe: the victim was given enough significance in the book to give some significant emotions, and some of the other characters were just kind of scary.  And a bit insane maybe.  But mainly creepy.

Kudos on the attempt to derail the reader's suspicion by throwing another possible suspect out there.  But seeing as how Andrew Thorne is the main male character, and this is a typical category romance (a la Harlequin Romances, after all), it wasn't like we didn't already know for a fact whether he had anything to do with the murder.  Of course, it also helps take suspicion off of a lot of people when the murderer pretty much admits the crime, even if not vocally.

A Mix of Story Summary and More of My Thoughts:
So the basic gist of The Carriage House  is that Tess Haviland did some work for an eccentric rich guy named Ike Grantham.  Ike Grantham is the most charming snake charmer to ever charm his charming way into the land of charming.  But after all that charm is no longer in front of you, you realize how much you resent the guy for charming you into agreeing to do things you otherwise wouldn't have done.  And somehow, that causes problems.

And so somehow he had managed to convince Tess that she would be very happy to take the old Thorne carriage house in Beacon-by-the-Sea, some fancy area overlooking a nice beach and ocean view, I think, as payment for the work she had done for him--something to do with graphic design.  So instead of real money, she goes for it.  To her, getting the new property for the price of her expertise is a bargain because she'd always wanted a large, old home in the middle of nowhere by cliffs and beaches with rumors of hauntings by an ancient ghost.  It reminds her of her mother, she says... the area, not the actual house itself.  And everyone else around her pretty much tells her that she's been swindled and wonders what the heck she'd been thinking.

Now, my own personal thoughts were conflicting, to be honest.  The romantic in me would absolutely love to receive a nice, old-fashioned home with so much rich history, overlooking beautiful scenery.  For one, it would be a nice, historically rich place to bask in; and things like that appeal to pretty much anyone.

The practical, logical part of me, however, says that Tess should have had the darn house inspected first before going for it.  It's an old house, an old building, and it hadn't been inhabited in a long time.  Yes, it's probably beautiful.  Yes, it's probably got all sorts of stories to tell.  Yes, it would be kind of cool to tell people you live in an historic landmark that might possibly be haunted.  Like I said, it's a romantic notion and people are nothing if not impractical about romantic notions.  It's attractive.

But it's also an old rundown house without proper upkeep maintenance or modern plumbing, and probably doesn't even have electricity.  I don't know, I wasn't really paying too much attention and I don't think we went into too much detail about the shortcomings of this carriage house aside from some broken windows, creaky wood boards, useless locks and doors, and maybe some broken stairwells.  I mean, Tess had to sleep in a makeshift cot on the floor of the front room.

Color me shallow, but I needz my modern plumbing!

Anyway, back to the book...

So Tess decides to stay at the carriage house for a weekend in order to determine whether or not she’d like to keep the home or put it back on the market for sale.  After all, Ike very much turned over the entirety of ownership to her and she is very much legally the owner of this carriage house.  She can either have a nice, history-rich home to live in, or she can sell it and make a ton of money.  As it seems, everyone and their neighbors in this book seem to want to snatch the place right up if Tess were to sell it.

In staying the weekend at the carriage house, Tess inadvertently triggers a mountain of activity, especially after finding the human skeletal remains of a possible murder victim in her cellar… who then disappears after she keeps the incident a secret because she thinks she was hallucinating and isn’t sure of what she saw.  Now the local police and the media thinks she’s insane or trying to stir up trouble, and the real murderer thinks that Tess Haviland needs to be eliminated before she digs too much deeper.

Meanwhile, there’s a handsome next door neighbor with an adorable six year old princess to contend with.

Final Thoughts:
As I already stated, the murder mystery was pretty predictable from the start. Among all the discussion between characters about whom the skeletal remains belong to, if Tess even saw a human skeleton, or if the house is haunted at all, all fingers inadvertently point to all the answers quite obviously. It doesn’t take a start detective to know the entire story without reading the entire story. And so, in the end The Carriage House was more a romance than it was a murder mystery.

Although, I must say, that the atmosphere and the imagery of the book were quite excellently done. If any other books by Carla Neggers focuses more on the crime thriller parts and tweaks certain storytelling styles just right, I’m certain they’d be excellent murder mysteries to read.

I will definitely try to pick up another Carla Neggers book in the future.


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