REVIEWS

An Emotional and Beautifully Told Story of Treachery and Deceit

This was a dual-time story - by an author whose first book I’d very much enjoyed - where both its threads totally enthralled me. The writing is superb - the characters vivid and real, the relationships authentic, believable and simply fascinating in all their twists and turns. I totally identified with Martha in the modern story - and liked her very much - while Carrick’s borderline unreliable narration in the historical thread is so very well done.

The modern day story captures perfectly that post-retirement feeling of being without purpose, the day-to-day routine, the taking for granted of a long-term relationship, the losing your way, the attraction of the different and exciting despite its danger. But I equally loved the historical thread, and Carrick’s story - the relationships between the really well-drawn characters blown apart by the arrival of Cecile with her mesmerising presence. I also rather liked the fact that we always knew the later history of the house in outline - I really enjoyed the way the story fleshed it out, brought it vividly to life, the house almost becoming another character.

The escalation towards the end of the historical thread was so well wrought, with its dramatic and unexpected climax, a wonderful combination of smoke and mirrors. And the drama is reflected beautifully in the modern story too, with its perfect and satisfying ending. Love and obsession across the years, an emotional and beautifully told story of treachery and deceit - a doomed family, a decaying house and its secret history, and a contemporary story that equally captured both my heart and my imagination. I adored this book.

Anne Williams 

Blogger and Reviewer

 

 

Brilliant

Brilliant book. I couldn't put it down. Superbly written gripping story.

I will definitely be reading more of Jan Harvey's books.

Carole Shephard

Better than The Seven Letters?

Better than The Seven Letters? That would be hard to say. Jan’s first book was an exciting and fast read, it was very hard to put down. As a reader I was fearful for the characters from the harrowing prologue onwards. The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick was a rich, emotional journey which left me with the most amazing images in my head. When I finished it I had to sit for a while because I was so invested in the characters. I really cared about all of them and you can’t say that about many books. I highly recommend this beautifully written book.

Annette Rainbow

Barbara Pym meets Sebastian Faulks

A masterly weaving of the changeable fortunes of the Amherst family of Lapston Manor during the second World War and a curious journalist today who is determined to unravel the truth behind untimely death and the sad decay of a once great Cotswold house in her own village. The stories are linked by the wonderful Maxwell Carrick who in suffering his slow death and final redemption provides the key to the mysterious Madame Roussell and the horrors of wartime France . Jan goes from strength to strength-think Barbara Pym meets Sebastian Faulks -Jan creates her own world in a totally engaging and believable way and holds our interest beyond the last page.

E.A.Clarke

Engrossing

This book has a captivating theme which makes one eager to switch between the time lines presented by the alternating chapters. Thinking back, it's a tale that mirrors an experience, fantasy or otherwise, that each of us has had in the past. It will make you think - do read it.

Michael Phillips

Another Great Page Turner From Jan Harvey

Jan Harvey is becoming quite the mistress of historical fiction. Meticulously researched, her writing is incredibly evocative and her second novel is a worthy successor to her first, The Seven Letters. If you love a good read but want to learn something along the way then Jan's books are for you.
 

The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick is a story of a decaying house and its occupants. It is also a story of treachery and deceit and the intrigue builds beautifully. The author reveals just enough to keep you turning the pages and there are quite a few surprises along the way.
 

The characters are beautifully written and I found myself particularly drawn towards Alice; I think she could have a whole novel to herself ( I would be the first to buy it of the author ever decided to write it!). The characters are so well written that they stay with you - even now, I often find myself wondering what might have happened to them, which is the biggest compliment I could give a book really.

Sarah Fitzgerald

One of My Favourite Reads of the Year

Wow, what a wonderful read this book is, I couldn't put it down and did not want it to end. Set in the Cotswolds during WWII and 2015, we meet the 2 main characters, Carrick and Martha. Carrick is recuperating at Lapston Manor, suffering from extreme shell shock when he meets an enigmatic and beautiful French woman who will irrevocably change the rest of his life.
Martha has retired as a journalist, at sea and depressed without her career, who grabs with both hands the opportunity to write about the history of her village. During her research, she meets a man who knows quite a bit about Lapston Manor and its former inhabitants and when he takes her on a tour of the dilapidated home and grounds, she is spellbound.
This is the kind of book that keeps you reading most of the night, wanting to know what's next and then regretting it, because it's over much too soon! Wow, I loved it so much, definitely one of my favourite reads of the year. Highly recommended

Hannalore Cheney

Intriguing and compulsive

Jan Harvey, whose first novel 'The Seven Letters' was a real winner, has now done it again with her second novel ‘The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick'.
 

It has an intriguing story line, full of substance and description which made me feel as if I knew the characters. One of whom, Martha, I could relate to, and I even considered getting a dog!
I was compelled to read it slowly to savour the anticipation of the next stage of the plot which every turn of the page revealed.


This is one book I will definitely read again.

Sally Logan

 

A great and unusual story of love and betrayal

I thoroughly enjoyed Jan's first book "The Seven Letters" but this one is even better. I certainly read it in two "goes" and didn't want to put it down to go to sleep! It is written in my village and I can see so many of the areas Jan describes. I can just picture where her imaginary house is situated. The characters are well drawn and believable. It is achingly sad at times and I really feel for Maxwell Carrick. Roll on Jan's next book.

M. Gibbs

Beautifully Written

Wow, what can I say. Often the second book is not as good as the first but in this instance, this is definitely not the case. This is a well researched and intriguing book. The characters are even more interesting than the plot itself. The book is set in the past and the present and each part is intertwined with the other. I for one will be on the look out for her next book. 

Dinky Duck

A Brilliant Read

I finished The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick over a week ago and I’m missing the indulgence of getting home and sneaking off to read a couple of chapters before anyone notices the tea isn’t on! A brilliant read from cover to cover, cleverly interwoven and full of intrigue. I’m still thinking about the characters and how the story might have ended, had the choices made at the cross roads in their lives been different... I highly recommend this book but be prepared to become absorbed!

Caroline T

I Loved This Book

I absolutely loved this book! It was a page turner from the moment I picked it up.
The descriptive content is to be commended. I particularly enjoyed the characters in the modern day story, eagerly anticipating the outcome of the Martha/Steve/Rory situation, although both time lines worked really well. Jan Harvey’s obvious love of nature & animal life came through strongly throughout the whole novel. I really hope her third book follows very soon.........I cannot wait!

Elizabeth Nelson

A Perfect Book

Jan Harvey has woven a well-crafted tale of modern relationship struggles with a historic twist.

Martha leaves a high-powered job in publishing to retire to life in a quite Oxfordshire village, with her estimable but slightly dull husband and suffers in effect a bereavement for her working life.

Casting around for something to do with her free time she is introduced to a local history group and her journalistic instinct is awoken. Inheriting a dog also helps relieve some of the ennui that has descended upon her and her life takes a definite upward turn when she comes upon Scooter and more especially his owner, Rory. He introduces her to the dilapidated estate of Lapston Manor and so much more! Lapston is sadly in disrepair and due for development but still has a story to tell and Martha determines to tell it.

We are drawn in to the world of Maxwell Carrick, an erstwhile resident of Lapston Manor towards the end of its inhabitable life. His story is told in between the snippets of Martha's life as she stumbles her way through relationship troubles with her husband, her daughter and her neighbours.

Carrick, damaged mentally and physically by his experiences in World War II finds himself both attracted and repelled by the mysterious Madame Roussell who causes such heartbreak and chaos for Carrick and his adoptive family when she arrives in England to meet her dead fiancé’s family.

Jan conjures up a fine mental picture of the house, both in its modern run down state and brings it to life during its period of occupation in the war era.

The characters are well drawn, and I felt immense sympathy for Martha as she fights between excitement and desire for a younger man and the loyalty and love she feels towards her husband.

The locations are loving described and conjured, the verdant rolling hills of Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, and the poverty and sadness of wartime Paris.

The final chapters bring the 2 threads to a clever and unexpected denouement.

If you like a little history, a little mystery and a little romance this is the perfect book to sit with and escape the world.

Ann Taylor

A Page Turner

It's a fast read and quite a page-turner. The two strands, past and present, are both interesting. Enjoyable detail on location and interesting historical aspects. Enjoy!

DM

Lots of Twists and Turns

What a page-turner! Two stories intertwined across different eras in time. Lots of twists and turns. I couldn’t put this book down!

K. Trounce

Same High Quality

I thoroughly enjoyed Jan’s first book and this second novel is of the same high quality. Great characters drew me into the story and it became very difficult to put the book down as I wanted to see how the plot moved on. The locations and eras are described very well so that I could visualise the scenes quite clearly and the characters within these scenes, which are hallmarks of an enjoyable read for me.

J. Fennell

Well-Written

I enjoyed Jan's first book and was looking forward to reading her second - was not disappointed. I am trying to decide which of the two I enjoyed most as both are a good read and well written, however on balance, think maybe her second might just have the edge, perhaps!!

C. Short

Loved the twists and turns

Just finished this great story! I loved the way the story is set in the present and the past and the way it was woven into a wonderful tapestry. Loved the characters and the twists and turns. Looking forward to the next one......

Helen Fields

Two Compelling Stories

Two compelling stories are cleverly and deftly woven together in this well crafted novel from Jan Harvey .
Newly retired journalist Martha is struggling to cope with her free time, and it almost seems like a godsend when she learns that the local history society is seeking someone to put together a book about the locality. When reviewing the information they have gathered she finds herself repeatedly drawn back to the story of the local grand house, Lapston Manor. Rumors of robberies, mysterious deaths and tragedy surround it , and when she goes to explore the area for herself she meets a local landscape gardener, and finds herself irresistibly drawn to him, despite being a contentedly married woman, Is the shadow of Lapston going to destroy her marriage, and will she be able to uncover the truth about the mysterious French woman who somehow came to own the manor after the war?
This mysterious woman is at the heart of the second story told in the book, the fiance of Henry, deceased heir to Lapston, she visits towards the end of WW2, , while the remaining family are grieving their terrible loss. We are introduced to the titular Maxwell Carrick, family friend and companion since childhood. Desperately drawn to the new arrival he cannot see how he is breaking the heart of Henry's sister Alice, but soon he begins to suspect that something is very very wrong with the mysterious Cecile , and her actions soon prove him to be correct.
What really shines throughout this book is the time, effort and attention to detail that the author has put into creating really believable and interesting characters. Martha really resonates, and her internal struggles with her marriage are powerfully rendered.
Structurally the book alternates chapters from both time lines, and while this was a little jarring at first, particularly in the early chapters narrated from Maxwel'ls perspective, I soon adjusted to the rhythm. It's rare in books like this, that I find myself enjoying both story threads equally, usually I will have a preference for one, but in this case both were equally enthralling.

A Jourdon

A Beautiful Story to Read

Martha is facing something that quite a lot of retirees feel. Her mind is agile, she has been used to a very active job which used her capabilities and now she is adrift. Her husband, a very good man is staid, he himself a maths teacher who does not understand Martha at all.

A chance advertisement asking for help to set out a book regarding the history of this particular village seems just up Martha's street and she falls into the project with enthusiasm and a lot of vigor. Enthusiasm which is not shared by all of the committee surrounding this project. It also opens up a past story on the history of a manor in the village, whose history has been lost to the present inhabitants. Abandoned and falling into a derelict state, it must have been a grand home for some family and uncovering it step at a time, takes the reader back to the WW1 era and the tragic saga of the Amherst family.

The story of Martha (who also discovers love in the best way possible) at the age of sixty and is in a quandary as to what she should do, and the story of Henry, George, Alice and Madame Roussel takes across from England to France to espionage, betrayal, love, distrust and lost opportunities. Very poignant, very tragic but very well told this was a beautiful story to read.

Mystica Varathapalan

 

 

Keeps You Reading Most of the Night

Wow, what a wonderful read this book is, I couldn't put it down and did not want it to end. Set in the Cotswolds during WWII and 2015, we meet the two main characters, Carrick and Martha. Carrick is recuperating at Lapston Manor, suffering from extreme shell shock when he meets an enigmatic and beautiful French woman who will irrevocably change the rest of his life.
Martha has retired as a journalist, at sea and depressed without her career, who grabs with both hands the opportunity to write about the history of her village. During her research, she meets a man who knows quite a bit about Lapston Manor and its former inhabitants and when he takes her on a tour of the dilapidated home and grounds, she is spellbound.
This is the kind of book that keeps you reading most of the night, wanting to know what's next and then regretting it, because it's over much too soon! Wow, I loved it so much, definitely one of my favorite reads of the year. Highly recommended

Hannelore Cheney

I was totally into the Story

This book alternates chapters between current times and WW2 era. Martha is a retired journalist who gets involved in writing a history of an old mansion in her town. The WW2 chapters involve Carrick and those who lived in which is now a sad broken down house, who Martha is doing research on.

For the beginning of the book, it seemed to drag on forever and I was starting to think it would be a DNF. But then the author really stepped it up and I was totally into the story! I enjoyed her description of the town, house and I could picture it in my mind.

If you read this book, don't give up on it to soon. So despite a slow start, I honestly did enjoy the book!

Cindy H

 

The Characters are Complex and Well-written

I very much enjoyed Harvey's second novel, The Slow Death of Maxwell Carrick. The dual timelines follow Martha, who has recently left her job in publishing and finds herself adrift in retirement, and Maxwell Carrick, who has returned to the English countryside from the front in WWII and is struggling to reintegrate into his much-changed former life.

The characters are complex and well-written and supported by a cast of fantastic animals (plenty of poignant moments for dog and horse lovers!). Heroes and villains in both timelines have nuanced layers, and Harvey has included so many tiny details that make the reader question characters' motivations and revisit the assumptions one has made earlier in the book.

I'll definitely be reading this one again!

Victoria Martin

I Was Completely Hooked

Retirement doesn't suit Martha Nelson; she is restless and can't settle. A local newspaper advertises for help with a project of a coffee table book on local history. With her background in journalism, she offers her services, but her editing skills are not appreciated by the typically dyed-in-the-wool village committee. Nevertheless, she has become intrigued in the story of the ruined Lapston Manor nearby and especially in the story of its last inhabitants.

In the meantime, going back 70 or so years, we meet Maxwell Carrick (always referred to by his surname) who was one of those inhabitants. Taken in by the then owner of the Manor, he is accepted by Henry, George and Alice as part of the family as they all grow up together. War breaks out and Henry is reported missing presumed dead and Carrick is invalided out of the army with a severe case of stress. It is at this point that the mysterious and enigmatic Cecile Roussell enters their lives and changes everything for them.

This a very accomplished book which I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish. Carrick is clearly disturbed, almost to the point of dislike; Cecile is an accomplished seductress. It is easy to imagine the impoverished state of the Manor and the glory that it once was. Martha is dogged and determined, though her husband Steve is less than impressed with her preoccupation with the story she is trying to chase down. And then, into her life, comes local horticulturist Rory.

Once I had got used to the hopping to and from Martha's life and Carrick's story, I became completely hooked and found myself really caring for both Martha and the beleaguered Carrick. The prose is very good without being overly descriptive – less is more - and the dialogue totally believable in both eras. 

Though the background to the cover was quite dark, it made me think 'mystery' before I had even started reading it.


Highly recommended

Martin, Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Blog

A Compulsive Read
An intricate plot, which weaves through two separate time zones. Maxwell Carrick is a victim of the war, and his death is indeed protracted; Martha, a generation later, is researching the history of a derelict house from Carrick's time. Once I engaged with the rhythm of the story, I found this book a compulsive read. It races along with its many threads, including love, infidelity, greed and betrayal.
J Bywe

 

I really enjoyed this Jan Harvey book!  She tells a good story with engaging characters that hook you in and keep you guessing until the very end.

Sue Stevens