The Tale of Briar Bank
by Susan Wittig Albert

Berkley Prime Crime, New York, 2008. ISBN 978-0-425-22361-1.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
Posted on 10/01/2008

Fiction: Mystery; Teen/Girls

A true storyteller puts your mind to work and pulls you into the story. Susan Wittig Albert is a master at this skill with her latest offering in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter series. The Tale of Briar Bank is laced with local gossip and conversation. No person (or animal) is neglected; no voice is considered too small and insignificant. Each chapter draws the reader deeper into the story while we remain "safely hidden behind the penny postcard rack."

In early 1900's England, there be dragons! They are very tricky creatures and appear in varied guises. Beatrix Potter has made her escape, albeit temporary, from her dreary life in London with its resident dragon, only to find more dragons waiting in her pleasant heart-home of the Land between the Lakes. A record early snow storm grants her a brief reprieve from returning to the life her parents and society would choose for her, leaving Miss Potter in Near Sawrey with time to contemplate her heart's desires, catch up on local gossip, help out a few friends and maybe solve the mystery behind the strange rumors and unusual circumstances of the death of an antiquities collector.

A unique blend of history and mystery unfolds as the inhabitants of the small, old fashioned village go about their gossipy ways. Which eligible male was seen with one of the ladies? Is there romance in the air with more than one couple? Where is the treasure the antiquities collector was rumored to have found? Will the villagers be isolated because the ferry is broken and the roads impassable? If only the animals could,wait...they can! The Big Folk (humans) can't understand them, but the talking animals offer dimensions of the story that just aren't possible when the narrative is conveyed only through human characters. Join Beatrix Potter, the village residents and the animals of the Land Between the Lakes as they band together to solve the mystery of Briar Bank. And try to count how many dragons appear in this fun cozy that will entertain teens, adults and all Beatrix Potter fans.

Susan Wittig Albert is the award winning author of the China Bayles Mysteries, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, several teen and nonfiction books and also finds time to co-author a Victorian mystery series with her husband Bill. As the founder and continuing supporter of the Story Circle Network, Susan has made great strides in helping women find their voices. Susan and her husband make their home with various pets and gardens near Austin, Texas. Visit their website, the Cottage Tales website, and the All About Thyme website.

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