News From Dorothy

Death at Dovecote Hatch Reviews

Publisher's Weekly (May 2015): “Set in 1932, Cannell’s enjoyable second Florence Norris mystery (after 2014’s Murder at Mullings) finds the intuitive housekeeper of Mullings, the Stodmarsh family home in the village of Dovecote Hatch, loo0king into another suspicious death. When genteel bachelor Kenneth Tenneson takes a fatal fall down the stairs at Bogmire, his sizable, “grim-looking” Victorian house, the coroner rules his death an accident. Tenneson’s miserly elder sisters and his sweet young ward stand to inherit his estate, but a secret second will reveals the existence of another potential heir. Florence, who suspects someone pushed Tenneson down the stairs, joins forces with Inspector LeCrane, who played a lead investigative role in Murder at Mullings, to sift through the clues and determine who has the most to lose by the second will’s revelations. A strong cast of village characters and an intricate plot will keep cozy fans turning the pages.

Kirkus (May 2015): “A quiet British village hardly seems the place for a murder, much less two. Now that Florence Norris, the housekeeper at Mullings, has quietly helped the police solve a murder at the home of the young Lord Stodmarsh (Murder at Mullings, 2014, etc.), she's waiting to marry publican George Bird until she feels she can leave Mullings in good hands. The recent death of their neighbor Kenneth Tenneson has been ruled an accident, leaving his two nasty sisters and a beautiful ward in residence at his exceedingly ugly Victorian mansion, Bogmire. Although Florence has her suspicions, she says nothing until Inspector LeCrane, recalling her keen observation skills from the earlier case, asks for her help. She's suddenly deeply involved when her closest friends, Doris and Alf Thatcher, are called to a law office and told that Doris, who was switched at birth with Kenneth Tenneson, is the heir to the Tenneson house and fortune according to Kenneth's new will. Shocked by this discovery, Doris wants nothing to do with it, but Kenneth's death puts her life in danger. In the meantime, young Lord Stodmarsh has taken an interest in Mercy Tenneson, whose own inheritance is not part of the estate. Mercy senses that she's being followed, and her identity is shrouded in mystery. Could she be the killer or the next victim? Florence needs all her local knowledge and sleuthing skills to help solve the convoluted case. Agatha Christie meets Downton Abbey in Florence's second case, a charming reminder of all the country house murders of Britain's golden age. “

Booklist (May 2, 2015): "In this British blend of traditional cozy and historical mystery, Florence Norris, head housekeeper at the Mullings estate, returns as a gifted amateur sleuth, aided by her fiancé, George Bird. After solving a traumatic murder some months earlier, Florence hopes life in Dovecote Hatch will settle down, but when Kenneth Tenneson, a member of the local gentry, is found dead after a fall down the stairs of his home, Florence senses something is amiss—even though the coroner rules Tenneson’s death nonsuspicious. Then Doris Thatcher, wife of the local postman, learns that she and Tenneson were swapped at birth, and while he should have been brought up in modest circumstances, Doris should be the one living in Bogmire, the Tenneson manor house. As if this wasn’t enough upheaval for Dovecote Hatch, Tenneson’s ward, Mercy, believes she is being stalked. Solid writing, vivid characters, an intricate plot, and an authentic-seeming glimpse of the lives and customs of 1930s Britain make this an attractive and entertaining read for Anglophiles, whether they are drawn to the history or the comfy manor house." 

NetGalley (April 2015):  "Florence Norris is housekeeper at Mullings and this story opens with George Bird, owner of the Dog and Whistle pub, seeing her off at the railway station for a week long holiday in London with her cousin Hattie Fly. Just as the train pulled into the station Florence had the strongest impression the only other person on the platform, a woman, was thinking about throwing herself in front of the train. Nothing happened, though, and both women boarded the train for London. From this incident Florence found herself investigating a secret in the village which lead to death and possible insanity. At a very early spot in this story the author put in a plot device which blew my preconceived notion of where the story was leading all to bits. What a nice shock that turned out to be because it made this story take on a more original aspect than I've encountered in many years of reading mystery novels. Once again the characters of Dovecote Hatch are exceptionally well presented and the resolution of the questions being investigated make perfect sense. I really am looking forward to reading future novels in this series. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars"

United Kingdom Publication Date: March 2015
United States Publication Date: July 2015 

Murder at Mullings Reviews

Book List (April 15, 2014): “Cannell offers an Agatha Christie–like whodunit with touches of Olde World England and a soupçon of romance.... With a multistranded plot, strong characters, and echoes of Rebecca, this mix of romance and crime will appeal to a wide range of readers.”

Library Journal (May 1, 2014): “VERDICT: Downton Abbey fans will pick up on the tone immediately: imagine the ever-reliable Mrs. Hughes narrating a mystery. Stepping away from her long-running Ellie Haskell series, Cannell has created a fascinating and leisurely paced historical, excelling at period details and class distinctions.”


Dorothy Cannell Receives Lifetime Achievement Award at Malice Domestic 26 Mystery Writers Convention
May, 2014

Dorothy Cannell: Brilliant Wit and Sharp Eye for Detail
By Cathy Pickens

Nice people everywhere know that family reunions are occasions of wholesome pleasure, more innocently rewarding than lavender-scented sheets in the airing cupboard or fresh pots of homemade bramble jelly cooling on a marble pantry shelf. I hope, therefore, that posterity will not judge me harshly when I confess I read the invitation to Merlin’s Court with the same panic I would have accorded a formal notice that I was to be executed at the Crown’s convenience. —Opening to The Thin Woman by Dorothy Cannell.

I still remember my enchantment when I first read those opening lines in 1984 when The Thin Woman was published. Who couldn’t read those lines and not be enchanted, drawn into a story sure to delight? Witty wry
humor, literately cozy word pictures, hints of violence — all the things that make the best mysteries ....which is certainly why the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association named The Thin Woman one of the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Twentieth Century. I’m betting it would be a good choice for the 21st century list, too.

Dorothy came to the States from England in 1960, met and married the charming Julian Cannell, and lived and raised their four children in Illinois where he practiced law. Other things you should know about Dorothy:

• She loves her dogs. A lot. Maybe more than she loves some people...or lots of people.

• While she was growing up in England, her mother and father shared their passion for reading. She has a remarkable memory for details in classic mystery novels. She may have found an error in an Agatha Christie novel.

• She didn’t quite know she’d written a mystery until her agent told her.
Turns out, her agent (the incomparable Meg Ruley) wasn’t sure it was a mystery either, until a St. Martin’s editor identified it as such—and a good one. However it happened, readers rejoiced.

• She has ten grandchildren. When she tells stories about them and their visits and her carefully cherished memories of each of them, any listener knows that having Dorothy as Granna must be the most magical thing in the world.

• She can’t help being funny. She once described sobbing her way through writing the death scene for one of her characters, certain it was one of the most tragically moving scenes she’d ever created, the farthest thing
possible from funny. Her hopes of proving her tragedy chops were dashed, though, when her agent called: Dorothy, the scene where he dies? I laughed so hard I cried.

• When traveling with Dorothy, it is best not to trust her with the map. Her friends will offer plenty of evidence of this—or more precisely, those friends who haven’t been irretrievably lost somewhere in the wilds.

The only thing better than a new Ellie Haskell mystery is Dorothy in person. She is a regular highlight at Malice. Who could forget the year she and husband Julian moved to Maine? At Malice that year, Joan Hess presented a slightly threatening letter from another Maine mystery writer — one Jessica Fletcher — suggesting that Dorothy might want to reconsider, that Maine might not be big enough for the both of them.

Well, Dorothy is still in Maine, though we’re not quite sure what happened at Cabot’s Cove. And she’s still treating us to visits with Ellie Haskell as well as Hyacinth and Primrose Tramwell and their Flowers Detective Agency, countless short stories, standalones, and her latest, the vintage 1930’s Murder at Mullings featuring Florence Norris.

For me, one of the continuing enchantments of Malice is the sense that it is a big, happy annual family reunion — the nice kind of family that one chooses to join. True, no lavender-scented sheets but also no pending execution at the Crown’s convenience, and the large family who attends genuinely enjoys the gathering. Along with her friends and fellow honorees this year and with many others, Dorothy has helped bring together this family that is Malice. Those outside the mystery community find it hard to believe that mystery writers consider themselves a community rather than competitors. But those of us — both readers and writers — who’ve been adopted in over the years know the power of the humor and affection with which old friendships are celebrated and new friendships are formed at Malice. Not that we don’t enjoy a little homemade bramble jelly and a well-deserved execution, but everything in its own time and place.

To borrow from hard-boiled PI writer John D. MacDonald: “People who become legends in their own time usually don’t have much time left.” If that be true, those of us who cherish her memorable characters, her brilliant wit and her sharp eye for detail will simply refuse to grant Dorothy Cannell “legend” status. We’ll acknowledge and honor her for her novels and short stories, but we’ll continue to ask, “When’s the next?” for some time to come.

Cathy Pickens, the author of St. Martin’s Southern Fried mysteries, is a past-president of Sisters in Crime, current president and founding board member of a regional Forensic Medicine program and former Mystery Writers of America board member. She lives in Charlotte with her husband.