A Crime Club selection, this intrguing tale has been reviewed as "...the very best whodunnit in many a day...Not to be missed." It starts with plans to bury deceased Great-uncle Frederick in the family vault on Beacon Hill. When the vault is opened, there's someone already there that no one could ever expect-the skeleton of a burlesque queen who disappeared thirty years ago! It's up to young Sarah Kelling to hold the shocked family together, and try to find out what happened. What she unravels is a complex murder plot that not only stretches into the past, but also has Sarah marked as a victim!
©1979 Charlotte McLeod (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Sarah's family is opening up their historical cemetary vault, where no one else was ever supposed to be buried. To the surprise of all present, much has changed since its official closing. The main change is the addition of an exotic skeleton with rubies set into her teeth. This is the start of a kaleidoscopic adjustment of Sarah's view of her compressed little world. Charlotte MacLeod's brilliant plot is sympathetically humanized. When I listened to my old favorite THE FAMILY VAULT, it started a whole reading and listening sequence of Charlotte MacLeod books.
LIfe-long reader, fond of mysteries, scifi, fantasy. Prefer good story-tellers, with interesting premises. Road warrior-so listen a lot!
Sarah kelling has always adored her generation older Cousin Alexander Kelling, so when her father dies when she's 19 and leaves Alex as her guardian, she happily marries him. But they are living with his tragically blind and deaf mother, using Sarah's income from her trust that expires when she's 27, whose funds go to Alexander if she dies, and though the house is one of Boston's distinguished old homes, they are living in shabby genteel poverty, recycling old clothes and doing their own DIY - or are they merely being thrifty aristocratic Boston Brahmins?.
But when a cantankerous older family member insists on being buried in the original historic family vault (instead of the modern cemetery on the outskirts of Boston next to his pre-deceased and despised wife), they find an unexpected resident - a notorious stripper Ruby Red -- and the Kelling secrets are about to come out.
Sarah is a bright, well-mannered young woman, happy to serve, but growing tired of the social demands of her heritage, the autocratic demands of her mother-in-law, and the financial demands of poverty when she's supposed to be part of a rich family. And when this shock starts to crack the family solidarity, she begins to search for the truth of how Ruby intersects with the family, but also the pattern of premature death. And trying to make her marriage a more equal one.
Well - written, with multiple humorous eccentric characters in the in-bred Kelling clan, and a complicated plot with a totally unexpected solution.
I listened to the entire series on cassette tapes a number of years ago and was happy to see that Audible is now carrying some of them. I just wish it would carry the rest of the series.
If you are interested in Charlotte MacLeod, you need to start with The Family Vault because it introduces you to the entire Kelling clan and Max Bittersohn. Later books refer back to elements of this book all the time, so you will feel lost later if you don't start with this first book.
This cozy mystery begins with the Kelling family vault being opened to prepare for the burial of a recently deceased family member. The Kellings are members of the Boston elite, so it is especially sensational when they find inside this vault the body of a woman murdered 25 years earlier. This starts Sarah Kelling, a young wife of a fellow Kellow cousin twice her age and the daughter-in-law of a despotic blind and deaf woman of the Kelling family, on the dangerous adventure towards solving the mystery that has haunted her family and cursed them.
The one main weakness of this book is that it tends to throw in all the Kelling family members without developing the characters. It introduces just about everyone you will meet in later books, which is why I believe you need to start with this book before continuing with the series, but it can get confusing to sort them all out.
Otherwise, the book is enjoyable, and the narration very professional and fitting to the character of the book. Even the voice of the chosen narrator seems especially appropriate for the books in this series. I think the series grows much stronger in the next few books, but this is a solid start to the Sarah Kelling/Max Bittersohn (whom you meet but don't spend a whole lot of time with in the first book) series.
Sarah Kelling Kelling is introduced to us as a girl learning to be a woman. Finding her independence in a world of stolid traditions and old relatives, young Sarah comes into her own in this first of the series. Usually light, funny mysteries, this first book is still witty but slightly more somber in nature. The mysteries are just convoluted enough to keep you guessing until the final chapters. The true magic of these stories are the characters themselves. Colourful, outrageous, silly, farcical -- these are entertainment on the order of Miss Marple crossed with a bit of Arsenic and Old Lace.
It was an alright read but not an author I think I will follow. I realize it was setting the scene for a series but, and I'm sad to say this, I don't much like female narrators (with one or two exceptions, which this was not) and the story definitely required a female narrator. It just didn't grab me unfortunately.
Sarah Kelling's character was my favorite. The narrator did a good job, however sometimes I was unsure as to which character was speaking in a dialogue of two or more characters because her voice didn't change as much as it should have to distinguish between characters.
Fun, witty sleuthing. An entertaining listen - I enjoyed puzzling out the family relationships and the bizarre world of Charlotte McLeod. Read with gusto by Andi Arndt.
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