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In the Crypt With a Candlestick    by Daisy Waugh order for
In the Crypt With a Candlestick
by Daisy Waugh
Order:  USA  Can
Piatkus, 2020 (2020)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

We meet Lady Tode as her 94-year-old husband, Lord Ecgbert, is about to finally die and release her from her unhappy marriage. She is much younger and is looking forward to finally being able to move to Capri, leaving behind the immense responsibility of running Tode Hall. The 300-year-old hall has been opened up to tourists, and is enormous, with two long wings and a central dome. The manor house itself is 'the size of a village.' Running it includes overseeing 'an adventure playground somewhere down by the old Boathouse, now a café, and the old stable block halfway up the drive, has been converted into a tasteful retail centre selling fine teas and weirdly expensive trinkets to visitors.' All of these enterprises require a large staff, and Lady Tode doesn't think that any of her three children — except the one who lives and has a family in Australia, but refuses to come back — is capable of running it.

We get good descriptions of the estate and especially of the run down mausoleum, which is described to us during the procession to the mausoleum as the funeral of Lord Tode gets underway. It's a spooky old place up on top of a hill. Tode Hall is extremely famous because of its Vanbrugh-designed dome, its size, and a 140-foot ballroom, but a book has also been written about a fictional aristocratic family living there, and this popular novel, Prance to the Music of Time, has been made into 'an extravagant multi-part TV series … with a stirring theme tune that still played on call-waiting systems all over the world.' Every once in a while during the book one of the characters will start to hum this theme, and it's always at a totally inappropriate time.

Meeting all the unique characters in this country house murder mystery takes up the first third of the book before Lady Tode's body is discovered in the crypt. From then on we are flooded with clues implicating everyone. There's a lot of humor in the book, as well as a helpful ghost, lots of strange smells, and scary noises in the night. Nothing seems to go as planned for any of these people who bumble through unlikely events alternately certain that they alone know who did away with Lady Tode. The ending is delightfully satisfying.

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