Book Review: Cedardale Court – Nathan Lee Christensen

Cedardale Court
About Cedardale Court (2011)
Cedardale CourtCedardale Court is full of daring fools, haunting old flames, and brimming with panicked villainy; which only makes the final week of Canner Connelly’s ten year attempt to avoid death feel that much more ridiculous. After a well-intentioned move to the Oregon countryside, the safety and peace of mind he’s longed for, for him and his daughter, Chloe, finally appears within reach. But, upon waking the next morning, their promising start at Uncle Henry’s falls rather short as the sun comes up and the ever inept residents around them start their days. One domestic dispute, a little reckless driving, and a broken fire hydrant later, what normally might have been an enjoyable Sunday morning quickly turns into a slightly darker affair as a human hand -well, half of one, really- turns up in the bushes. Things only get messier and more frightfully uncertain as the ghosts from the past begin to resurface and, one by one, the secrets that have been so carefully kept, for so very long, unravel for everyone.

In the face of the monstrously absurd, this little neighborhood might be the key that opens the door to Canner and Chloe’s new life, or it might be exactly as it appears; the gateway to the undoing of them all. 

*A neo-gothic fabulation, bordered on the lines of hysterical realism, wrapped up in a quirky little murder mystery*

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Review: Cedardale Court

They say you can’t pick your neighbours and whenever you move to a new area you always hope it will be a quiet neighbourhood where everyone minds their own business. If you want peace, serenity and no action then it’s probably wise not to move to Cedardale Court.

Canner Connelly and his daughter Chloe move to Cedardale Court where they are taken in by Uncle Henry. The Connelly’s arrival is not greeted with silence especially when two neighbours are having a row and one drives into a fire hydrant, flooding the area. Police end up coming to the scene when a severed hand is found amongst the sewage in Uncle Henry’s garden. A local teacher is missing, presumed dead, but the police have few leads to go on. Having wanted a quiet life, Canner and Chloe find themselves at the heart of a dark murder mystery where the residents on Cedardale Court are not all that they seem.

The novel opens with the amusing but devastating destruction of the fire hydrant by one neighbour driving away from his wife after a bitter argument. The police become involved when a hand is discovered in Uncle Henry’s garden and it soon becomes clear that this may be the remains of the missing school teacher. It’s not all murder and darkness though. There is romance in Cedardale Court with Henry nursing a long-term love for his neighbour, Jane, who in turn loves him back but they have managed to endure years living next door to each other without taking things further. In a fascinating sequence of chapters we learn of Henry’s involvement with Jane and her abusive husband many years before.

As the story progresses the police locate a prime suspect for the murder of the missing school teacher but with a decent alibi the trail quickly runs cold. With the missing teacher supposed to be in charge of Chloe’s class, Canner’s daughter inadvertently comes into possession of some very incriminating evidence that someone is keen to reclaim for themselves. Ever fearful of death, Canner finds his daughter in danger and with the police struggling to solve the mystery how will things turn out?

Cedardale Court is a great murder mystery with some elements of dark humour thrown in. The relationship between Henry and Jane is particularly poignant and the revelations about the murdered school teacher and the enemies she has made only add to the mystery and speculation of who the murderer is. A surprising twist is waiting at the end of the novel. Given the dark humour I’m not sure readers will take the book too seriously but they will have great fun with it.

Cedardale Court is an intriguing and fun murder mystery where appearances are very deceptive and the hearts of individuals are very hard to read. A great bunch of characters and an exciting storyline will make you want to keep turning the pages. You can try and solve the mystery yourself and some people may come up with the answer before the end but I wasn’t one of them!

Verdict: 4/5

(Book source: reviewer received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review)

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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