The fight pits her against Earl, who has been offered the job of clearing the land. When a fire breaks out in the woods, the burned body of another opponent is discovered. Did he die attempting to escape a fire he set, or was the fire set to cover up his murder? Kathryn’s search for answers leads her to other questions about the developer’s connection to a friend of hers who fled New York years ago for mysterious reasons. The information she uncovers puts her in grave danger.
Leslie Wheeler’s Shuntoll Road is set in a region where houses are known by family names. It is usually the family that built the home, and the name stays on, no matter who owns the house in future generations. Kathryn Stinson, curator at a Boston library, rents the Farley house amidst long-settled residents and vacationers in a Berkshire hamlet. She’s found love there. She’s found beauty in the landscape, and the combination of the two could lead to finding peace. This changes abruptly when a New York real estate man, Niall Corrigan, buys the Farley house. He sets out to turn its land—a beautiful pond surrounded by acres of woods—into a high end housing development. Kathryn and locals oppose the idea. A David versus Goliath dynamic exists, but that’s just the beginning of the conflicts about to engulf the area. The author does a superb job of juggling a large cast of characters. She weaves past sins into present tensions and disputes. The result is a plot rich in emotions and revelations, leading to a fitting ending.
Leslie Wheeler has written an excellent book involving a returning main character, Kathryn Stinson, and an array of characters from a feisty grandmother to a rebellious young woman in a storyline revolving around a land dispute. There are many reflections of Ms. Wheeler’s success in writing mystery fiction with a distinction meriting specific attention: pacing. The novel moves at a pace that allows character development, pointing to even contradictory elements of personality. Kathryn, for example, is tenacious and clever but insecure and uncertain about her relationship with her lover Earle and feels guilt over perceived harm to an older woman. Grandmother Waite is argumentative but a good judge of character, whose assessment of events proves to be on target. Gwen is a complex woman who inspires reader admiration for her struggles and frustration over her choices. Pacing, however, is not meandering through the plot but rather a slow build of suspense, dropping clues and revealing motives while giving flesh to the character and promoting readers’ interest in the lives of protagonists and victims. Gwen is, for example, an interesting person with a tragic past, a renewed, ill-advised connection to a man who may be the source of her past rape and harm to her and her daughter. The final section accelerates as motives are revealed and evil intents, particularly revenge, are apparent. Writing a series around specific individuals is a challenge; developing prominent personalities who promote reader loyalty and interest requires adept closure of the storyline while conveying hints of future mystery and character development.
Boston art curator Kathryn Stinson, who we met in Rattlesnake Hill, the first book in this series, heads back to the Berkshires and straight into another mystery. While trying to keep an unscrupulous developer from destroying a pristine tract of forest land, she becomes entangled in family secrets old and new, a mysterious fire and an even more mysterious death, and more than her share of hot-tempered suspects. The story kept me guessing, and on the edge of my seat for the final third of the book. The author has populated Shuntoll Road with interesting, multi-faceted characters who seem very real, especially Kathryn, a smart lady, cool in the face of danger, determined to figure out how all the threads tie together, and succeeding despite the odds. An engaging read that’s got me eager for the next book in the series!
In this sequel to RATTLESNAKE HILL, Kathryn tries to rebuild her relationship with Earl by vacationing near his home in the Berkshires. But an idyllic start falters when an unethical builder hires Earl to develop the forest surrounding the rental house Kathryn has grown to love. Her close friend and mentor becomes secretive. And then Kathryn stumbles upon a body. Was it an accident or a murder? I came to know SHUNTOLL ROAD’s residents, their relationships, their viewpoints, and their motives so well that when the action exploded, I was as shocked as Kathryn. I appreciated how the story showed the effects of the violence on the characters and their friendships. Finally, the climax sent me flying through the pages, hoping everyone would make it through unscathed. I recommend SHUNTOLL ROAD for readers who believe that well-developed characters are as essential to a good mystery as its twisting plot, for those who love nature, and for anyone who has spent time in the Berkshires.
In this continuation of Leslie Wheeler’s Berkshire Hilltown series, Kathryn Stimson is back in the Berkshires trying to come to terms with her attraction to Earl Barker, a local contractor, and trying to limit the damage a real estate developer is doing to an area that Katherine loves. As in Rattlesnake Hill, Kathryn discovers that the past is never dead, although some of the characters may be before the end of the novel. Wheeler cleverly juggles a large group of characters in a twisty story that will leave you guessing and in the end satisfied as all the pieces fall into place.
SHUNTOLL ROAD by Leslie Wheeler is the second book in the A Berkshire Hilltown Mystery series. It’s the story of Kathryn Stinson as she returns to the Bershires trying to figure out her life and what will make her happy – not in just the here and now, but for always. She knows she loves Earl Baker, but is she ready to give up her job and her life in the big city for small town life? It also the interwoven story of Gwen Waite. After an “accident” that left her clinging to life by a thread and in a coma and then recovering with a great loss of memory, she escaped to the quiet of a small town. This former New Yorker married a local man, had two kids and is the local librarian happily content with her life and determined to keep her past a secret. With the arrival of an old friend, it seems that secrets might have a way of getting out – even after 20+ years. Naill Corrigan came to town after buying the Farley house (the very house Katherine is renting for her vacation) and land around it under the conception of building an upscale property development. Or is it all a guise to trying to claim what he’s always wanted? Kathryn is dead set against development of the property because of the destruction of the land’s natural beauty and is determined to do her level best to prevent it from happening. She seems to have found an ally in Charlotte Hinkley, who is with the New Marlborough Land Trust. Both women know about the supposed codicil to Farley’s will, which would give the land trust the woods, swamp and the old mill, in order for them to be protected and are determined to find it in order to stop Corrigan. Will they find it or is someone willing to do just about anything to keep them from finding it? When the woods are deliberately set on fire and a dead body is found it seems the stakes have gone up. Was his death connected to the land deal? Or maybe a result of revenge for a beloved dog that was shot? Who can Kathryn trust and will her hunting down the codicil bring her harm? Can Kathryn help Gwen without giving away her secret? Can Corrigan be stopped? Well Kathryn come to terms with Emily once she starts to come out of her coma? Will the relationship between Kathryn and Earl continue to grow and bloom? Leslie Wheeler tells a wonderful tale with many layers all interwoven expertly together into one fabulous story that kept me turning pages until the very end. She has a way of making you feel right at home in this small rural area, taking an interest in saving the woods and old mill, and making the character feel like folks you could see yourself being friends with. SHUNTOLL ROAD should be on the TBR list of all that love a good mystery or just a great book! We can only hope that there will be a third book in this series to look forward to. Although part of a series, SHUNTOLL ROAD can most definitely be read as a standalone book. You will, however, be like me and checking out other books by this author after reading this one. I recommend this book and give it my 5 stars!
If you’re looking for an engaging mystery read, get your hands on (preferably by legal means) Leslie Wheeler’s newest entry in her Berkshire Hilltown Mysteries: Shuntoll Road. Leslie’s novel takes us back to western Mass. and leading character Kathryn Stinson’s new experiences there, of course entangling her with shady real estate development plans; a friend’s unexpectedly traumatic past unraveling the life she’s built: frustrated, twisted passion; and, of course, murder. Leslie beautifully captures the striking natural landscapes of western Massachusets and deftly immerses you in the isolation as well as community bonds of its rural world. Shuntoll Road is a fine regional novel brought to life with suspense and wonderfully developed characters. It’s a pleasure to see how Kathryn interacts with and gradually becomes a part of the believable community binding together the novel’s supporting characters. You’ll also want to read the first book in the series, Rattlesnake Hill.
Fans of Rattlesnake Hill, rejoice! Kathryn Stinson is back in the Berkshires, and New Nottingham has obligingly coughed up another corpse for her to investigate. Quirky characters propel the plot, old secrets disinter themselves, and soon enough everyone pretty much everyone is in peril, under suspicion, or both. Kathryn has a problem: can she, a Boston library curator, live happily ever after with with Earl, the hunky contractor? This is not a question to be answered long-distance, so she heads to her serene (hah!) rental on Rattlesnake Hill to find out. Soon she is doing battle against Niall Corrigan, a smarmy New York developer who wants to knock down a lot of Kathryn’s favorite trees. Worse yet, Earl wants to clear the land for him. Hey, a contractor’s gotta contract. Then a suspicious fire breaks out in the forest, and when the smoke clears, Kathryn discovers the body of local roughneck Randy Plungas. Before you can say, “Was it an accident, or—” the amateur sleuth is on the case. Author Leslie Wheeler spends first part of the book laying down a bakery’s worth of breadcrumbs, so that by the time the corpse shows up we realize that almost everyone in the book has a reason to want this guy dead. But who did the deed? Was it Gwen, whom Plungas insulted and perhaps blackmailed? Was it Suzy, his ex-wife, whom he abused? Or was it his son, whom he assaulted; Earl and Corrigan, whom he shot at; or Reikart, whose dog he maimed? (The departed was clearly not a student of Dale Carnegie.) The multiple layers of mystery coalesce into a lovely, Agatha Christie-esqe story that keeps the reader guessing. Furthermore, Wheeler infuses her tale with an endearing touch of mysticism by means of a white stag who seems to personify Kathryn’s love of the Western Massachusetts landscape. This is the second book of the series, and it tops the first. The narrative and pacing are more sure-footed, and the descriptions and characterizations are equally as good. Perhaps this is the happy result of the author getting to know her creation better as she settles into what we can only hope is a long series about murder and mayhem in the Berkshires.
Wheeler’s sequel to Rattlesnake Hill finds Kathryn Stimson back in the Berkshires, attempting to navigate her relationship with a local man. When a developer from New York threatens both her friend and the property she has come to love, Kathryn must unravel a mystery to rescue both. Readers will burn through the pages to see whether this likeable heroine can piece together secrets from the past in time to avert disaster. I can’t wait for the next installment!
I recommend the book to all who crave a good light read. Hoping there are more in the series. Enjoy