REVIEW: Murder at Spindle Manor by Morgan Stang

Murder at Spindle Manor is an ingeniously constructed murder mystery by Morgan Stang and winner of Mark Lawrence’s ninth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO9). Set inside a creepy mansion in a dark gaslamp fantasy world, Murder at Spindle Manor offers plenty to love for dark fantasy fans. Think of it as Agatha Christie meets Neil Gaiman, with a quirky sense of humor that rivals Knives Out.

Murder at Spindle ManorIsabeau Agarwal, the lead protagonist of Murder at Spindle Manor, combines a sharp intellect with the fighting skills and marksmanship of a professional sniper. Isabeau is a Huntress, tasked with tracking and exterminating a terrible monster known as the Doppelvyrm:

“Allow me to speak of the Doppelvyrm. They fear no light, for their only dream is to become human, and in the pursuit of that dream, they will kill countless men and women…The Doppelvyrm is a parasite. A grisly, ghastly parasite.”

The Doppelvyrm can perfectly mimic its human victims, adopting their physical form and absorbing their memories. Isabeau’s hunt brings her to Spindle Manor, where she suspects that one of the ten guests is actually the Doppelvyrm in disguise:

“Ten little guests, all collected and sat, met and filed away. Ten souls in one room, one of whom was not who they said they were.”

The influence of Agatha Christie is obvious from the quote above and from the general setup of the novel. Morgan Stang gleefully embraces and/or subverts a range of murder mystery tropes, including a mentor-mentee relationship reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s pairing of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Playing the role of Watson in Murder at Spindle Manor is Evie, an apprentice of sorts to Isabeau who gives our protagonist the opportunity to explain her thought process out loud as she considers various hypotheses. Evie herself is an interesting character who becomes more intriguing over the course of the novel.

With its large cast of characters and fast-paced plot, I was pleasantly surprised that I became emotionally invested in several of the characters, especially Isabeau. Morgan Stang did an outstanding job bringing each of these characters vibrantly to life and building sympathy for several of them.

The fantasy world of Murder at Spindle Manor is also a treat, featuring necromancy, a variety of bizarre and frightening creatures, and a healthy dose of steampunk. There is plenty of humor here as well, such as the author including herself on the guest list at Spindle Manor.

Murder at Spindle Manor has it all: mystery, fantasy, horror, comedy, and even a touch of romance. All of this comes together to make a perfectly plotted whodunnit amounting to the craziest game of Clue that I’ve ever played.

I originally reviewed this novel as part of the Before We Go Blog team with SPFBO9.

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.