Ellen Read was born in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She has always enjoyed reading, even from a young age. Books took her into a world of wonder and enjoyment that the real world could never quite provide. She loves to read fiction, non-fiction, poetry. She particularly loves history and stories of ancient myths and legends. Authors such as Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, and Victoria Holt, the latter of whom wrote gothic mystery/romances, have influenced her own work.
In her childhood, Ellen always made up stories. At first, she wrote poetry and short stories, and then wrote her first novel at 18. After a few novels, an agent in London took her on but the agent was made redundant before she’d secured a contract with a publisher. At that time, Ellen became heavily involved in the performing arts world and found less time to write. She loved all her work and experiences there but wanted to write more and get published. When Ellen moved towns, just over three years ago, she decided that would be the start of her new writing career. She wrote a novella, Love The Gift, while moving, which she self-published. Then she started The Dragon Sleeps, the first book in The Thornton Mysteries.
Ellen’s other passion is photography. She loves to photograph flowers, landscapes and architecture. Her website features many of her photos.
The Dragon Sleeps
A Dragon statue. An ancient sword. A body in the orchard. What secret has remained hidden at Thornton Park for the last eighty years?
It’s 1927 in Victoria, Australia. A time after the Great War when women have more options opened to them. At a weekend house party at Thornton Park, Alexandra Thornton decides to break the news to her father that she wants to be an antiques dealer, like her father, grandfather and great-grandfather before her. Guests include Zhang Huo, the Chinese antiques dealer who, with his son, has brought a Ming dragon statue from China for Thomas Thornton, Alexandra’s father. Benedict Archer, manager of Thornton Antiques in Melbourne, is also invited. When Edith Blackburn, her friend since childhood, points out to Alexandra that Benedict is attracted to her, Alexandra can’t believe it.
Then a body found in the orchard, and before the weekend is over, a priceless artefact is stolen. Alexandra is determined to discover how these things are connected to the Ming dragon and the antiques her great-grandfather brought with him from Hong Kong so many years ago. What treasure is worth killing to possess?
5 out of 5 Stars Atmospheric and as good as any Christie
I have always been a huge fan of period crime and Murder Mystery. Give me an Agatha Christie and I’m happy. I adore Miss Marple, but I’ve always preferred Hercule Poirot due to the time period in which it is set. The 1920’s are my favourite. a magical, elegant and classy period of manners, chic design and artfully restrained elegance.
So imagine my delight, on reading The Dragon Sleeps, to discover that the Author clearly shares the same love and values, enthusiasm and charm woven into every page.
Read perfectly captures the spirit of the age in this tale, transporting us to high society period Melbourne, and the opulent Thornton Estate, in a world of society, art, music and antiques, and of course murder.
What I found particuarly skilfull is that this story manages to move along at a brisk, taut pace, the mystery unravelling before us with little to no ‘flab’ or ‘padding’, and yet, through the authors narrative craft, manages at the same time to never feel it is rushing you. Refined and elegant, and clearly researched with love and keen attention, we are immersed in a world of parties, dashing and debonair protagonists and a sense of brooding danger, and I loved every minute of it. Definitely up there in my evaluation with any of the ‘classic’ period whodunnits.
Alexandra, Benedict and Edith are so well-written, and the balance between solving the mystery of bodies found in orchards (one sure way to ruin a weekend house party) and developing love interests that feel organic, never forced, is a skilful balance to strike. Read pulls this off with an easy style and understated flair suitable to the age itself.
Go and discover the secrets hidden at Thornton Park yourself, (with suitable evening-wear please) Personally, I’m off to stare at the stardust flung across the skies.
James Fahy – UK Author
Thank you to Ellen Read for giving me an ARC of The Dragon Sleeps in return for an honest review.
This book has been re-published by Crimson Cloak Publishing
My view on what this book is about….
We open The Dragon Sleeps, and here we are, an invitation to a weekend party at Thornton Park. The hot topic is a brass Dragon…… it sits inside a velvet-lined box. An antiques dealer, Mr Zhang sold it to, Thomas Thornton, (Alexandra’s father) the owner of Thornton Antiques.
Edith wasn’t all that impressed with the brass Dragon and told Alexandra so. However, Alexandra felt she had to defend her father and said to Edith it was rare, from the 1500s, Alexandra was also disappointed with it and confirmed as much to Benedict who is the manager of Thornton Antiques.
Alexandra confides in Benedict that she had her suspicions over one particular person who had been invited… the person was being very shifty.
In the drawing room, Alexandra and Edith were having a bit of a tete-a-tete. What about? ….well to do with Benedict Archer of course!! Who else? but at this time Alexandra questioned herself, had she been aware how fond she is of Benedict?
A wrought-iron spiral stair case leads up to the tower. It was here that Alexandra and Benedict discussed the prospects of telling her father that Alexandra had been learning the ropes of the trade (Alexandra wanted to be an Antiques dealer at her fathers shop) nearer the end of their conversation, they noticed the stars in the sky.
Quote “Here, with the sea of darkness surrounding us, the Milky Way stretches like a diamond blanket across the sky.”
After reiminiscing over the starry night, they decided to dance a foxtrot, to the music of Stardust, after that, like the gentleman Benedict is, he escorted Alexandra back to her room.
The next day activities consisted of showing stained windows, which added alot of curiosity, tennis playing, and a very deep discussion about a sword and a hint of a walk in the zoo, which ending up being a full tour of the zoo.
It wasn’t until the next day Benedict discovered there had been an “accident” in the Orchard. Was it an accident, or was it murder? Who was accountable? Who was missing? Where did the missing sword go? What was in the muniment room, that had Alexandra so entranced about her grandfather’s notebooks?
My thoughts …
Well how can I put this without using my own cliche….. “I loved this book so much”. With writing up this review and leaving this till last, I slept on it till morning, and then some more….. this is a very special book for me that connected with me on a very personal level, a precious book that I will definately treasure for years to come.
The Dragon Sleeps, a cosy murder mystery, a historical fiction (set in Australia – 1920s after WW1), a romance, crime/ thriller to the flavour of Agatha Christie, but Hercule Poirot style.
Edith and Alexandra. I absolutely adored the banter that goes on between the two girls. Edith having such a dry sense of humour and slightly putting her foot in it which makes it even more facinating, and I love how Alexandra seems to put up with it and takes it in her stride. The camaraderie between the two, quite endearing and certainly makes reading about these two very entertaining.
Alexandra and Benedict. I loved the romance between these two. Some would say, it’s the old fashioned type of love, but I see it as an adoring love, a love that spreads with maturity over the years, not at all your hard, hot stuff, so it is in the nature to the story that Ellen uses this in a knowledgeable way.
Glossary. I loved how there is a glossary which is thoughtfully done, and is included at the end of the book, examples explaining of Australian language or towns, for example …. ANZAC biscuits, chutney, duffer.
Ellen Read’s dry wittiness in The Dragon Sleeps, seeps through and hints of this we get throughout, which adds flavour of what could have been a much darker book. Her breaks in the story, are well balanced. The construction of historical events are weaved so cleverly in the story that you don’t feel as if you are being bombarded with a history lesson. Her words made an impact where they should and softness where it should. I loved, also the soft quality of Ellen’s writing in parts of her story, I’m thinking of “her mothers essence”, the “romance part” of it for sure and even the sorrow behind the “funeral scene”, which seemed … bittersweet, magical and sensitive. Ellen’s plotting skills are amazing and I can’t think of a better word to use, “it’s a work of art, of words” is the closest I can put to it, again, this gives a different impact to the story, a gripping one, overall giving the book the exact right balance that is needed. I want to congratulate Ellen, her style and writing is astounding…. she leaves me speechless.
I give The Dragon Sleeps, 5 stars
Den of Dragons
The Dragon Wakes and The Beached Whale by Ellen both feature in this anthology.