Murder by Syllabub, by Kathleen Delaney: A Dessert Drink with a Deadly Kick

murder_syllabubA Colonial-era “ghost” is felled by a poisoned dessert drink. Who wanted him dead? Who didn’t? Murder by Syllabub ($15.95, 298 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-957-2) is Kathleen Delaney’s fifth Ellen McKenzie mystery. The setting of this cozy is a Civil War era plantation in Virginia.

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4 1/2 stars: “I was hooked from the opening of this wonderful cozy mystery. The characters are very real and I wanted to help them…. The story takes place on an old plantation in Virginia, and the past history becomes yet another character. Kathleen Delaney has done her research and her readers are the richer for it. Among other things, I learned all about syllabub, a desert drink, and also sippets, spoons made from stale bread. One of the characters teaches Colonial cooking and it was fascinating to learn about baking and how it was done in the eighteenth century. Everything is described with a richness of language that draws the reader back into the early history of the South. And if that weren’t enough, the action is fast-paced, full of drama and mystery. The plot twists and turns in myriad ways. An old murder is uncovered, along with family feuds, contested wills, and the aftermath of slavery. Delaney keeps her readers guessing right up to the end, and I found that I couldn’t put this book down. If you are looking for a cozy mystery which is filled with history and intrigue, look no further than Murder by Syllabub.”  Read more ….

–Cyclamen, Long and Short Reviews

5 Stars: “For history buffs or cozy mystery fans, this is a well-written novel with plenty of historical and regional interest.”  Read more ….

–The Self-Taught Cook Blog

“Any story that has a Civil War era plantation in Virginia and a poisoned dessert drink sounds like a winner. And Kathleen Delaney has batted in a home run. Jessica Fletcher from the Murder, She Wrote Television series, as good as she was, was never as good as Ellen McKenzie is. Ellen is up against 100 years of Southern history as she weeds through the motives the various individuals have for the murder and there are plenty of suspects and there is also the cooking …. Loaded with twists and turns and red herrings that will leave you guessing all the while you are flipping pages to find out what happens next…. I am going to go and get the previous four books to hold me over until the next book in this series comes out.”  Read more ….

—Vic’s Media Room

5/5 Stars: “With Murder By Syllabub I have discovered an amazing name in the field of Crime writing and SHE’S FEMALE! I have already downloaded her other books!… I was able to feel, see and the story. The characters were very well described. I particularly liked Ellen and Noah. I very much look forward to reading more of Ellen’s mysteries. I give Murder By Syllabub an amazing 5/5.”  Read more ….

–Kate, Read 2 Review

“Each new revelation in the case leads to ever-expanding questions and suspicions. It’s a real ‘whodunit’ novel, with multiple twists and turns, along with a bevy of suspects, each with a strong motive for wanting the disagreeable victim dead. Chapter after chapter is peppered with action and an ever-deepening mystery leading up to an explosive, nail-biting conclusion. Author Kathleen Delaney has produced a cast of endearing characters in this her fifth book centering on heroine Ellen McKenzie. The novel is rife with the often humorous escapades of a group of elderly women.”  Read more ….

—Christine O’Connor, I Love a Mystery

“Ellen McKenzie is back to solve another mystery in Murder By Syllabub. This time she helps her Aunt Mary tackle a problem with a ghost in Colonial dress at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house belongs to Aunt Mary’s friend, Mildred. They find the ghost may have been very much alive at one point, but it is now dead, thanks to a poisoned batch of syllabub Mildred made. Ellen doesn’t like the sound of that and sets out to find the truth. Ellen is a sheer delight to read! I’ve enjoyed all five of author Kathleen Delaney’s McKenzie mysteries, and look forward to many more!”

—Joyce Lavene, author, along with her husband Jim, of over 50 books

A ghost in Colonial dress has been wreaking havoc at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house is owned by Elizabeth Smithwood, the best friend of Ellen McKenzie’s Aunt Mary. Mary is determined to fly to the rescue, and Ellen has no choice but to leave her real estate business and new husband to accompany her. Who else will keep the old girl out of trouble?

When Ellen and Aunt Mary arrive, they find that Elizabeth’s “house” comprises three sprawling buildings containing all manner of secret entrances and passages, not to mention slave cabins. But who owns what and who owned whom? After Monty—the so-called ghost and stepson of Elizabeth’s dead husband—turns up dead in Elizabeth’s house, suspicion falls on her. Especially when the cause of death is a poisoned glass of syllabub taken from a batch of the sweet, creamy after-dinner drink sitting in Elizabeth’s refrigerator.

Monty had enemies to spare. Why was he roaming the old house? What was he searching for? To find the truth, Ellen and her Aunt Mary will have to do much more than rummage through stacks of old crates; they will have to expose two hundred years of grudges and vendettas. The spirits they disturb are far deadlier than the one who brought them to Virginia.

Says Delaney, “I have always been fascinated by the early history of our country and how people lived in the eighteenth century. My first visit to Colonial Williamsburg intensified my interest and I knew I had to write a story set there. Researching what I needed for this book was as much fun as writing it.”

Kathleen Delaney has written four previous Ellen McKenzie Real Estate mysteries, but has never before transported her characters out of California. Kathleen lived most of her life in California but now resides in Georgia. Click here to find Kathleen on the Web.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Mildred leaned back against the drain board, as if she needed it to prop her up. “Do you think he’ll be back?”

I set the dish on the drain board along with the other rinsed dishes. “You mean the murderer?”

Mildred nodded.

I’d wondered the same thing. “I think it was Monty prowling around upstairs, looking for something. Why he was dressed like that, I can’t imagine, but I don’t think he found whatever it was he was looking for. The only reason I can think of for both Monty and whoever slipped him the poison to be here is they were looking for the same thing. I don’t think they found it. So, yes, I think whoever it is will be back.”

Mildred nodded. “I think so, too. That crate was no accident.” She paused before going on, her voice filled with apprehension. “You know, McMann isn’t going to buy the mysterious prowler story. He’s going to take the easy way out. Elizabeth fed Monty the poison before she left for the airport and we’re protecting her.” She sighed deeply and turned to the dishwasher. “Might as well load this. Can you hand me that bowl?”

She opened the door, pulled out the top rack and froze. “How did that get in here?”

“What’s the matter? Oh no.”

We stood, frozen, staring at the immaculately clean crystal glass, sitting on the top rack in solitary splendor.

“That’s one of the old syllabub glasses.” Mildred turned around to look at the glasses on the hutch and returned her gaze to the dishwasher. She pulled the rack out all the way but the dishwasher was empty, except for the one glass.

I’d had a close enough look at the glass next to Monty to know this was from the same set. “It’s the missing syllabub glass.”

“Missing?” Mildred’s hand went out to touch it, but she quickly withdrew. “Where are the others? Cora Lee and I packed these away years ago. There were eight of them. How did this one get in here?”

“Noah didn’t tell you?”

“That boy only tells me what he wants me to know. What was it he should have told me?”

“The set of these glasses were on the sideboard in the dining room where Monty was killed. Six of them. One was beside Monty with the remains of a sticky drink in it. That made seven. One was missing. The one the murderer used.”

We stared at each other then back into the dishwasher. “That’s got to be the missing one, right there.” Mildred took a better look. “It’s clean. Someone’s trying to frame Elizabeth.”

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