Thursday, June 10, 2021

Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

Great authors are have amazing insights into human nature. They need to understand the motivations behind the actions, reactions, and feelings of their characters. So it's not a far stretch to imagine our favorite authors as detectives and investigators as Bella Ellis does with Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte in The Vanished Bride, the first novel of the Bronte Sisters Mystery series.

Governess Mattie French discovers blood leaking out of her mistress' room one early morning in 1845. Her mistress has vanished but the quantity of blood can only mean murder. Brother Branwell brings this ghastly news to Haworth and Charlotte and Emily realize that their school friend Mattie is the one who discovered her mistress missing. They resolve to walk across the moor to Chester Grange and comfort their friend and perhaps to discover the truth of what happened to Elizabeth Chester. Knowing that Mrs. Chester left behind a child and a young stepchild and that Mr. Chester was not a good man, the three sisters are determined to become lady detectors and solve this troubling case.

Ellis, a play on Emily Bronte's own pen name--Ellis Bell, who is actually novelist Rowan Coleman, takes readers on a fun, cozy mystery ride with the three amateur sleuth and as yet unpublished novelist sisters. The atmosphere often veers toward the gothic and there are common Victorian plot contrivances like gypsies and the supernatural contained here. There are seeds of the sisters' future novels scattered throughout the mystery as well. The sisters have a delightful bickering and bantering way with each other and they are all drawn with curious and lively minds. There is a real sense of them pushing against the strictures placed on women in their time both in their own choices and in their sympathy for the missing Mrs. Chester. Occasionally though, they discuss the lot of women in terms that feel anachronistic. Their observational skills suit them well in detecting. The plotting of the mystery is consistent and the denouement is unexpected but well drawn. Fans of the Brontes who don't mind a little creative license will certainly enjoy this entertaining historical mystery.

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