Thoughts: Bellfield Hall: Or, The Observations of Miss Dido Kent

Bellfield Hall: Or, The Observations of Miss Dido Kent
by Anna Dean
(Originally published 2008 in England as Moment of Silence)

What It’s About: From

1805. An engagement party is taking place for Mr Richard Montague, son of wealthy landowner Sir Edgar Montague, and his fiancee Catherine. During a dance with his beloved, a strange thing happens: a man appears at Richard’s shoulder and appears to communicate something to him without saying a word. Instantly breaking off the engagement, he rushes off to speak to his father, never to be seen again. Distraught with worry, Catherine sends for her spinster aunt, Miss Dido Kent, who has a penchant for solving mysteries. Catherine pleads with her to find her fiance and to discover the truth behind his disappearance[…]

Why I Read It: I’ve been reading a lot of political non-fiction lately, and I needed a change. Bellfield Hall is set in 1805, and I thought the Austen-esque atmosphere would lend to a cozy, original mystery.

Why It Didn’t Work For Me: (contains minor spoilers)

  1. Dido Kent is an open rip off of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple–except Dido is younger and will therefore probably end up married at some point in the series.
  2. The characters frequently use the word “stuff.” As in, “I have some stuff in my pocket” or “I have some stuff to do.” I love ‘stuff’ as much as the next person, but for an historical mystery, I found the anachronism to be continually distracting and frustrating. And stuff.
  3. There is a terrible sub-plot involving a Colonel who, one can easily infer, is forcing a young male servant to have sex with him. Both the rape and the Colonel’s sexual orientation are played off for laughs, and does not affect the mystery in any way. It could have easily been left out. I found the plot very offensive, and I admit it clouded my opinion of the rest of the book.

What You Should Read Instead:

  • If you’re looking for a regency novel: (Re)Read Persuasion.
  • If you’re looking for a mystery with a classic feel (that is, in fact, a classic): Read Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
  • If you’re set on reading a regency mystery: Try this one anyway. You may like it more than I did.

BUT ONE MORE THING: I seem to be one of the few bloggers who did not enjoy this book. For other views check out these links:

Carla Nayland Historical Fiction
Reading the Past
A Striped Armchair


Filed under 2010 Reviews, Fiction, Mystery, Print

6 responses to “Thoughts: Bellfield Hall: Or, The Observations of Miss Dido Kent

  1. Stuff? Stuff? You must be joking; that’s horrible. And rape is just not funny. Don’t worry about not agreeing with others. My review of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is going up tomorrow and everyone else seems to have loved it. Eh, what can you do, right?

  2. Because nothing says funny like sexual assault? I am so cranky at the world right now and this just adds to my crankiness. Have I ever mentioned ‘Indiscretion’ by Jude Morgan? Very fun and regency if you’re looking for some light relief. No mystery, but the heroine is snarky, which might be jsut as fun.

    • Riiiight? The whole “gay-man-as-predator” was so very unnecessary. Sorry to add to your cranky! This book made me sooo cranky. Avoid it. (And yes, of course I requested Indiscretion from the library. Thanks for the rec. :) )

  3. Haha, this was such a funny review! I’ve seen this book around, though I believe this is the first review of it I’ve read.

    And may I just say (and I know I’m running the risk of being shunned for ever and ever), but I never completely understood the appeal of Agatha Christie. I’ve read two Miss Marple mysteries (The Murder at the Vicarage and 4.50 from Padington) and while they were deliciously twisted in their simplicity, it really wasn’t exciting for me.

    However, I’ve never read any Poirot. Maybe therein lies the catch?

    • Oh I totally agree–Agatha Christie can be a total snooze fest! So don’t worry, I won’t throw eggs at you. Murder on the Orient Express, however, is a bit more intriguing than the other books I’ve read by her. If you just can’t do it, though, check out the somewhat creepy 70s movie starring LAUREN BACALL. It’s pretttyyy good.

  4. Anybody who finds humor in rape is not an author I want to read. In addition to the fact that it sounds like this novel is derivative. And stuff.