The Dungeon House
Review: Malcolm Whitely is a man at the end of his rope. Malcolm is absolutely obsessed with the notion that his wife has been cheating on him. The bank withdrawals, the inconsistent stories when asked where she's been, and the way she looks at every man who isn't him, all of these are proof-positive in Malcolm's mind that she has been unfaithful. Malcolm has built a successful waste management business and done pretty well for himself and his family. Along with his wife Lysette and sixteen year-old daughter Amanda, Malcolm was even able to purchase a historic mansion near Ravenglass called the Dungeon House. The mansion overlooks the beautiful coastline of West Cumbria as well as historic ruins from the time of Roman occupation. An ideal place of peace and calm, yet Malcolm's world is far from peace and calm for a number of reasons. First, Malcolm's company is in jeopardy from South African business partners who are taking legal action against him for not revealing questionable financial practices before they came aboard. Then there is the growing marital rift between Malcolm and Lysette with regard to his perception that she has been sleeping with someone else. It quickly becomes an obsession with Malcolm as he continually cross-examines his wife regarding exactly who it is that she is seeing behind his back. Malcolm's increasing drinking problem doesn't do anything to help his belief in her infidelity and only serves to exacerbate the issue. When Malcolm passes out drunk during the Whiteley's yearly barbecue for their friends in the community, Lysette ultimately asks for a divorce. This is the final straw in Malcolm's rapid downward-spiral of a life. In a jealous rage, Malcolm grabs his loaded Winchester and aims it at Lysette in a desperate act of retribution. As he is about to pull the trigger, Malcolm sees a strange light shining outside the window coming from the vacant summer house where no one should be. Malcolm quickly regathers himself and we are left with the image of Malcolm with his finger on the trigger and the Winchester aimed squarely at the figure of his terrified wife.
Fast forward twenty years and "The Dungeon House Massacre" is a distant but horrifying scar on Cumbria's otherwise pristine history. No one likes to talk about the night that Malcolm Whiteley lost his mind and killed his wife, sixteen year-old daughter, and then himself. Yet two recent disappearances of teenage girls re-open the old wounds of that fateful night. What is even more unsettling is that the two vanished girls have connections to the families involved in the Dungeon House murders. One is the daughter of Nigel Whiteley, Malcolm Whiteley's nephew and the other is the daughter of Gray Elstone, Malcolm's old financial advisor and friend. In the course of investigating these events, Hannah Scarlett's cold case crew begins to look into what happened at the Dungeon House twenty years ago and hypothesize that maybe what occurred there wasn't so cut and dry. Especially since an eyewitness saw a strange individual running from the direction of the Dungeon House around the same time of the murders. Could it be possible that Malcolm didn't murder his family that night and who exactly is the shadowy stranger observed at the scene all of those years ago? And what exactly was that mysterious light that Malcolm saw just before he presumably pulled the trigger?
My feeling while reading The Dungeon House was that I did not want it to end. Martin Edwards has authored an engrossing mystery where the events of today are directly tied to people and places of the past. I couldn't get over how intricately connected the plots were between the two time periods. Mr. Edwards does an excellent job of creating doubt in the reader's mind where realistically, there should be none. The opening chapters depict a heinous crime that seems to outline exactly what happened: a jealous husband whose life seems hopeless, finally snaps, murders his family and takes his own life. Yet as we read on we see evidence slowly come forward to potentially cast that scenario in doubt. It has been a long time since I have read a mystery that captured my attention the way that The Dungeon House did. I felt disappointed when it was over, but the ride was well worth it. I had many a late night reading this book and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a complex plot that continually surprises you at every turn. My assumptions were challenged more than once and I was delighted when the final revelation was deftly disclosed at the end of the book. The Dungeon House is a mystery in the truest sense of the word and a book that rewards the reader over and over. Highly recommended.
Special thanks to Nick Taraborrelli for contributing his review of The Dungeon House.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an eARC of The Dungeon House for this review.
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Frozen Shroud
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), April 2013
ISBN-13: 9781464201059; ISBN-10: 1464201056
Location(s) referenced in The Dungeon House: England's Lake District
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The Dungeon House by Martin Edwards — A Lake District Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: September 2015
List Price: $26.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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