The Turnbull Murders by RJ Koreto


“R. J. Koreto has given us a sharp, smart mystery with no shortage of suspects and red herrings.” – The Mystery Review Crew

The Turnbull Murders: A Historic Homes Mystery

The Turnbull Murders

By R.J. Koreto
Genre: Mystery, Historical Mystery

Movie star Nicky Tallon selects architect Wren Fontaine to renovate Turnbull House, where he’ll be filming his next movie. Even to Wren, used to old homes, this one is a 200-year-old federal-style home on a private island in New York harbor, designed by the most celebrated architect of the day. But Turnbull House hides many secrets, such as the disappearance of the sea captain who built it. That’s just a historical curiosity until a studio executive no one likes is killed.

Wren just wants to keep her worksite safe, but then another murder occurs, and she starts noting eerie connections between the mysteries surrounding the Turnbull family and Nicky and his entourage. The handsome star seems to have two girlfriends, a childlike folk singer, and a cynical fashion model. Meanwhile, renowned actress Veronica Selwyn renews a friendship with Wren’s father, which Wren finds more disturbing than she wants to admit. She concludes it’s time she and her girlfriend Hadley take the next step and find a place together, an exciting but stressful change.

As the attacks continue, Wren realizes she will have to solve the mysteries surrounding Captain Turnbull and Nicky Tallon. Turnbull House speaks of order and harmony, and Wren must dig deep to see how the house has affected its owners, old and new. Fortunately for her, the eminently practical Hadley is by her side, pepper spray at the ready—because a frighteningly clever killer is about to find that Wren is getting too close to the horrific truth.

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When movie star Nicky Tallon buys Turnbull House, a 200-year-old house isolated on an island in New York harbor, he tags architect Wren Fontaine to handle the restoration. Nicky hopes to make the house a getaway for himself and his girlfriend Saffron, a youthful folk singer. Wren is passionate about bringing the residence back to life and making it truly a home for the people who will inhabit it. Since they’ll be filming Nicky’s latest movie on the island during the home restoration, Wren is able to solicit input from him and Saffron on what they envision the house becoming.

Wren will tell you that she understands houses better than people. But when one of the movie executives ends up dead, she has to try to make sense of the people in order to keep herself and her crew safe. Saffron is very interested in the history of the house and the Turnbull family, and Wren finds herself pulled into the lore of the place. It becomes clear that current events are curiously mirroring those of the past, and Wren may have to sort out a past mystery to decipher the present one.

With The Turnbull Murders, R. J. Koreto has given us a sharp, smart mystery with no shortage of suspects and red herrings. He’s clearly done his research, both on Wren’s profession and on the era of the home she’s restoring. I’m no expert, but the details all rang true to me, and I loved learning about home restoration and architecture. This book is the second in the series, but it read well as a standalone, too.

All the characters, both primary and secondary, were well-written, with depth and personality. Wren and her girlfriend Hadley are both resourceful, smart women. Nicky is a nice guy, a good enough actor, but seemingly not really cut out for the cutthroat antics of Hollywood. Saffron is delicate, almost childlike, but tenacious when tracking down tidbits of the house’s backstory.

If you’re a fan of intelligent, engrossing mysteries with connections to past and present, you need to make Wren’s acquaintance and read The Turnbull Murders.

About R.J. Koreto

R.J. Koreto is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, and the Wren Fontaine Historic Homes series. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

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