2017 Reviews · Australian · historical fiction · mystery

Book Review: The Dragon Sleeps by Ellen Read

Title: The Dragon Sleepsdragon 2

Author:  Ellen Read

Published: November 4th 2016

Publisher: Epic Reads Publishing

Pages: 244

Genres:  Fiction, Australian, Historical, Mystery

RRP: $19.79

Rating: 4 stars

A Dragon statue. An ancient sword.

What treasure is worth killing for?

It’s 1927 in Victoria, Australia. A hedonistic time after the Great War
when young people knew they could enjoy life without the threat of war hanging over them. A time when women have more options opened to them.

There is a weekend house party at Thornton Park and Alexandra Thornton thinks it will be a good time to break the news to her father that she wants to be an antiques dealer, like him, her grandfather and great-grandfather before her.

Only a small number of people are invited. Amongst the guests are Zhang Huo,
the Chinese antiques dealer who, with his son, has brought a Ming dragon statue from China for Thomas Thornton.

Benedict Archer, who is manager of Thornton Antiques in Melbourne and who has
been secretly helping Alexandra learn more about her family business, is also invited. Alexandra asks Benedict and Edith Blackburn, her friend since childhood, to be with her when she approaches her father.

When Edith claims that Benedict is in love with her, Alexandra can’t believe it.
In all the time they’d been at Thornton Antiques together, he’d never said
a word. Now, Alexandra looks at him differently.
Can it be true?

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 secret has remained hidden at Thornton Park for the last eight years?

My review:

The Dragon Sleeps, written by Australian author Ellen Read, immerses us in the world of art, antiques and wealth, in the heart of the roaring twenties.  It is the story of deep seated secrets, murder and intrigue. It also comes with a touch of gentle love and a glimmer of the supernatural.

Alexandra Thornton is a woman ahead of her time. She longs to work as a recognised employee in her own right for her family’s lucrative antique dealing business. Alexandra is so serious about this aspiration that she has been secretly learning all there is to know about the antiques business. Unbeknownst to her family, Alexandra has been working behind the scenes with the manager of her family’s business Thornton Antiques, Benedict Archer. When Alexandra finally realises enough is enough and she decides to confront her father to inform him of her wishes to become an antiques dealer in her own right, an interesting turn of events marks this fateful night. Firstly, Alexandra’s childhood pal Edith declares that Benedict is desperately in love with her. It is claim Alexandra feels is out of the blue, as there have been no clues to this love match previously. Then, the shock discovery of a body hidden in the orchard on the grounds of Alexandra’s home, Thornton Park, is discovered. Finally, a precious but priceless artefact belonging to Alexandra’s great grandfather from his travels in Asia many decades ago is stolen. Alexandra decides to play detective and she vows to get to the bottom of these freshly revealed secrets.

When I was approached by the author of The Dragon Sleeps by Ellen Read, I was immediately taken with the promise of a novel set in Australia (perfect), with an accompanying 1920’s based murder mystery (even better). With an appealing location and intriguing storyline, I was happy to take up the opportunity to read my first book by author Ellen Read.  Ellen carefully explained to me that The Dragon Sleeps is the first book in an intended at least three book series. I was pleased to learn that each story contains its own separate murder mystery, which will enable each of Ellen’s books to be read as a standalone novel.

Ellen Read has worked hard to bring us an authentic setting in her debut novel. I loved the opulence of Thornton Park, where the majority of the action in this book takes place. In addition, I also appreciated the other settings of the novel, which includes a spectacular library and Thornton Antiques. It is clear Read knows the ins and outs of these locations by heart and this came across in her writing. Likewise, the era in which the novel is set and a personal favourite era of my mine, the 1920’s, is described with precision. Read must be congratulated on getting the period specifics right in this novel.

A discussion of the characters in The Dragon Sleeps ,needs to begin with Alexandra Thornton, the novel’s main protagonist. Alexandra is a well drawn leading lady. I admired her strength, bravery and determination.  She is also a character who highlights the plight of women in this era. Read highlights how in this time after the Great War, opportunities for women were only just starting to emerge. Alexandra is determined to break free from the chains of oppression placed on women of this era. Her persistence in gaining a worthy position as an antiques dealer, as well as her gutsy approach to solving the mystery elements in this novel, is a testament to this character’s spirit. Alex is supported by a bevy of periphery characters, from love interest Benedict, to close friend Edith, Thornton Park staff, antiques dealers and family members. Each of these characters contributes significantly to the path of the unfolding story.

The Dragon Sleeps reminded me fondly of a classic whodunit novel and I see a few reviewers before me have compared this novel to an Agatha Christie offering, which is warranted. The Dragon Sleeps also serves up a side story of romance and it gives us a fascinating glimpse into the art world, in particular the complicated antiques business. There are plenty of secrets to unlock, along with a hint of the supernatural to keep things interesting. The ending worked well for me, but it also opened up the possibility for another book to follow on from the events in The Dragon Sleeps. It is also well worth mentioning that if you read The Dragon Sleeps, you must take the time to peruse the Author’s Note at the close of the novel. I found this additional section fascinating, it certainly enlightened the direction of the whole story for me.

Overall, The Dragon Sleeps was an entertaining novel, which I believe marks the start of a fruitful series for Ellen Read.

The Dragon Sleeps by Ellen Read was published in November 2016 by Epic Reads Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

Learn more about the author of The Dragon Sleeps, Ellen Read here.

*Please note I received a complimentary copy of this novel via the author, Ellen Read, in exchange for an honest review.

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dragon Sleeps by Ellen Read

    1. Thanks for stopping by Marie and reading my review of The Dragon Sleeps. I too saw this book frequently on social media, mostly Instagram, which is where the author and I connected. I hope you get the chance to add it to your reading list.

      Liked by 1 person

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