Title: The Death Under the Dark Arches
Series: Stoker & Bash: Book Three
Author: Selina Kray
Length: 436 Pages
Category: Historical Romance, Mystery/Suspense
At a Glance: The romantic arc of the series is, as always, exceptional, passionate, and heartfelt. Altogether, this book is a little slice of perfection.
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Sing a song of sixpence
A stage full of fright
One two-faced blackbird
Won’t last the night
When a phantom presence lures Hieronymus Bash into a deadly game, threatening to kill one of the players at his beloved Gaiety Theater each day until famed actor Horace Beastly returns to the stage, London’s premier consulting detective is on the case. The trouble? Horace Beastly is Hiero’s alter ego and the true object of this murderous obsession. When the current star of the show is struck down, Hiero has to risk everything by stealing back the spotlight.
After a golden summer together, DI Tim Stoker would do everything in his power to protect the man he loves. But a specter from his own past proves an unexpected, and perhaps fatal, distraction.
Scheming prima donnas, grudge-fuelled critics, and an axe-wielding theater ghost are all out for blood. Will Hiero and Tim unmask this menace before the final curtain call, or are they past the point of no return?
Review: There are a few authors whose names consistently show up on my shortlist of favorite Historical Mysteries. Selina Kray is one of them. Three books into the Stoker & Bash series, The Death Under the Dark Arches may be the most compelling outing yet for our intrepid heroes, Hieronymus Bash and DI Timothy Stoker, as Kray not only offers a passing nod to The Phantom of the Opera, but The Gaiety Theater—the place Hiero had once found renown and enjoyed accolades as actor Horace Beastly—has recently become a murder house where the current troupe and backstage hands are falling one by one, hunted and taunted by a specter who is using them as bait to lure their ultimate prey . . . Beastly himself. This case may prove to introduce Hiero to his most challenging role yet.
Provided he lives long enough to take his final bow.
While Kray has never once failed to deliver an outstanding and compelling mystery for Stoker, Bash, and their closest associates, Han and Callie, to solve, she has dialed up the danger and intrigue to another level in this novel, in large part because rather than them going in search of the mystery, and subsequent peril, this time it comes to them, aggressively and relentlessly. Clues and riddles and bald-faced threats keep the men wrong-footed while dealing with a cast of actors, some of them viable suspects, who are each adept at playing their roles.
Hieronymus Bash is as bold and charming as ever in this installment of the series, Timothy Stoker as focused as one would expect from a detective inspector of his caliber. If Tim’s investigative prowess sets the stage, Hiero commands attention from his audience—all the world’s a stage in a literal sense for the man who is on, as he claims, his fourth life. They complement each other in the investigative sense, but there are still challenges they face on a personal front. The past comes back to haunt them throughout this investigation, and the matter of trust in their relationship becomes an obstruction, albeit a momentary one, in the case, adding another layer of friction to the overall tension. Simply put, the romantic suspense in this book is on point.
The romantic arc of the series is, as always, exceptional, passionate, and heartfelt, but readers are treated to an additional side of longing in “Dark Arches”, which I want more of, please. Han Tak Hai and Calliope Pankhurst are the fiercest allies and colleagues, and are a part of the little family Hiero has spent years building, and now growing, but there are deeper emotions at play between them as well, unspoken for the myriad ways in which it could go wrong, but a new proposal from Callie means I hope we’ll be seeing much more of her and Han working side by side.
Altogether, this book is a little slice of perfection. The mystery is the ideal blend of creepy and dangerous, and the play’s the thing in which Kray captures the suspense along with the sweeping romance we readers of this series have come to expect from Stoker & Bash.
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