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by Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, September 2008
320 pages
ISBN: 0425223612

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Miss Beatrix Potter can't wait to get away from her parents with whom she lives with in London, England. All she wants to do is to go back to Hill Top Farm, her own quaint home in the Lake District.

After yet another argument with her mother who wants Beatrix to stay in London, Beatrix gets on a train and in a few hours is back at her beloved Hill Top Farm.

When she wakes up the next morning she discovers that it has snowed well over thirty inches and there is no way for her to write the letter she promised to her mother. The ferry is out of commission and it is very hard to get around the small village because of the weather, but Beatrix doesn't mind at all. In fact, she is very happy that she will have to stay until the snow melts.

During her first day on the farm, she learns that a neighbor, Hugh Wickstead was killed by a falling limb of a tree. He was hit on the head by it in the middle of the night. The villagers are not surprised by the death of the kind Mr Wickstead, because gossip has it that he discovered a buried treasure and dug it up. Everyone knows that buried treasures are cursed so Mr Wickstead's untimely death was only to be expected.

Meanwhile all the animals and dogs are talking about Mr Wickstead's death too. Pickles, Mr Wickstead's dog, knows exactly what happened because he was with him. According to Pickles, a dragon landed on the tree limb and the limb broke thus killing the man.

None of the other animals believe Pickles' story at all. A dragon? Indeed! There are no dragons flying around England during the early 1900s. But, Bailey the badger, knows better and has a tale to tell about Mr Wickstead's death.

THE TALE OF BRIAR BANK is the fifth in this cottage series and it is a gem just like the previous books.

Ms Albert leads the readers around Beatrix Potter's village as if we were The Ghost Of Christmas Present. No one sees us and we are privy to all the conversations of the people and animals alike. The reader and the omniscient tour guide might be living in the present age, but we easily go back in time to see what life was like in Beatrix Potter's day. Ms Albert's tour guide leads us around masterfully.

I cannot say enough good things about this story. We learn how Miss Potter is drawing lovely pictures for her next book and how she is concerned that her characters are being stolen all over the world because of a mistake that her publisher made.

We also know that Miss Potter is finding the company of the village's lawyer, Mr Heelis, very agreeable although our guide tells us that the couple won't recognize their feelings towards each other for another few years.

I also enjoy the side trips we take to The Brockery, a bed a breakfast inn owned by a badger. Here is where we visit with all the animals who go there to get out of the cold and the deep snow and hear their stories. Don't roll your eyes at the idea of talking animals. They add lot to the story and are quite endearing.

Ms Albert is one of the best authors around. Even though she might be better known for her China Bayles mystery series, do not miss out on these Beatrix Potter books. Each one is a wonder and amazing. Do not pass it up. THE TALE OF BRIAR BANK is like a Beatrix Potter book written for grown ups.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, December 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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