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The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  1,152 ratings  ·  301 reviews
London, 1703. In a time when the old approaches to science coexist with the new, one elite community attempts to understand the world by collecting its wonders. Sir Barnaby Mayne, the most formidable of these collectors, has devoted his life to filling his cabinets. While the curious-minded vie for invitations to study the rare stones, bones, books, and artifacts he has am ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 4th 2020 by Minotaur Books
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Agatha Christie would be proud!

Shortest Summary Ever: It’s 1703 (the place to be!) and Cecily Kay has returned to London to visit the home of collector Barnaby Mayne. While searching for botanical information, she stumbles right into a mystery when the host is killed. But she saw the killer and he confessed! The end? Oh no, that’s merely the beginning!

Thoughts: I wasn’t sure about this mystery until about 20% in, and then I was hooked (line AND sinker!). I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE historical my
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sir Barnaby Mayne, filling his cabinets with curious wonders of the world, is quite the character. It’s a time when old science and new science are merging in 1700s London. People love to visit his oddity collection, for viewing and for study.

Cecily Kay is on one such visit when Sir Barnaby is stabbed to death. Something’s just not right about all of it, and Cecily is determined to figure it out. As she hunts for clues, she may be the next victim.

I’ve read a few books about the oddity collectors
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss, reviewed
“...the unkempt mass of curls on his head looked less like a wig than like a gray cat posing as a wig to escape pursuing hounds.” I loved the descriptions in this book. In 1703 the famous collector Sir Barnaby Mayne invited the young botanist Cecily Kay to visit his London home so that she could study his plant collection. Mayne’s interests included the natural sciences, valuable treasures, curiosities and the occult. When Mayne is killed while conducting a tour of his collection Cecily and her ...more
Jul 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This story reads like a classic mystery. The pace is a bit slower....but the story is rich and well worth the wait. Set in London in 1703, this tale centers around Collectors. Collectors are an elite, wealthy group who pride themselves on collecting bits of science and history, then display cabinets filled with the wonders they have curated. The best collection is owned by Barnaby Mayne.....rare rocks, plant samples, animal bones, archaeological artifacts....if it's odd, intriguing and interesti ...more
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: net-galley
When I read a book I am looking for a good story first. I also like strongly drawn characters, preferably with at least one likable one and a good sense of place. In this one I didn't find that. I found an author who was trying to be clever and weak, unlikable characters. It was a disappointment to me.

Barnaby Mayne is a collector in the early 1700's and setting up a basic home museum. His house is full of cabinets of different collections of things like insects, plants, fossils, rocks, etc. Non
Blaine DeSantis
Thank you NetGalley and St, Martin's Press for this advance copy in return for my honest review. I feel that I should have liked this book a whole lot more than I did. The plot is pretty good, a private collector of museum type pieces back in the early 1700's is found murdered and his assistant quickly admits to killing him and then runs away and disappears before he could be captured. See, pretty good. We have two ladies who are involved in trying to find the real killer and a whole host of pos ...more
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-copies
A historical murder mystery set in 1703, a strong lead female character with an obsession for plants and a collector that has been stabbed to death ... and that's just a tiny part of this puzzle!

Cecily Kays plant obsession takes her to the Mayne residence where she plans to locate the specimens she needs within Barnaby Maynes cabinets. What was supposed to be a trouble-free task takes an unexpected turn when her host winds up dead. From here Cecily begins her journey to discover the truth of Bar
Jessica Haider
3.5 stars

The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne reads like a classic Agatha Christie novel. Set in London in 1703, the plot of the book centers around the murder of Barnaby Maybe, a wealthy collector who's house is filled with all sorts of curiosity. He has animal skulls, gemstones, feathers, shells, plant samples, butterflies etc. One night, while giving a tour of his collection to a number of guests, Barnaby winds up stabbed to death in his study. One of the guests immediately confesses to the crime. M
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Imagine playing a live game of clue in 1703 at a grand estate with one of the foremost curiosity collectors in the world, and you’ll conjure up something akin to The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne, a light but smart and utterly delightful drawing room mystery.

In terms of theme and setting, Hart gives us everything we want out of a book of this genre, complete with mysterious figures lurking about, a campy but sharp murder investigation led by two plucky women, and a crumbly old estate filled with al
May 31, 2020 marked it as abandoned-books
This is a DNF. ☹️ I feel like my tastes are changing. A year ago, this book might have worked better for me but I can’t get into it and haven’t had any desire to pick it back up since starting it a week ago.

I think the tone of the writing is pitch perfect. I really appreciate that. But I don’t think this story is for me. 😥
Rating: 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars

Elsa Hart has written another intriguing historical mystery. I have her "Li Du" historical mystery series, set in China in the 18th century, on my bookshelf. However, I have not read them yet. Her latest work is set in 1703 London. I could not pass up requesting to read an eARC of this book based on what I knew of her earlier series, and the time and place that this new mystery occurred. I am so happy to have had the chance to read this book.

As the book opens, we
Barb in Maryland
Excellent historical mystery featuring two strong female leads.
The blurb gives a good idea of the plot, so take a minute to read it.

I had a great time reading this.
The setting was fascinating, the mystery was twisty; once the action kicked in I had a hard time putting down the book.
I love our two heroines. Lady Cecily Kay has a great respect for the scientific method and the necessity of being accurate. Mrs Meacan Barlow, a sought-after illustrator, has a more jaundiced view of the scientific c
Aug 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Elsa Hart is excellent at description of minutia. Especially objects. And in this book at least 1/2 of the total copy is just that. It's description of 1000's and 1000's of "collection" items. Items of fossils, skeletons, persevered biological materials, geology samples, artifacts of historical or scientific ancient interest etc. etc. Also occult or mystic or religious paraphernalia. Dozens of categories of boxed, shelved, drawer stocked, hung or prone on any surface collectible "stuff".

It got t
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lady Cecile Kay is an interesting woman. She has arrived back in England from Turkey, many plant samples in hand, eager to avail herself of the many plant references contained in the well-known cabinets of Burnaby Mane.
He, like other collectors, has been buying samples and sending his agent around the world for unique and wonderful objects. These collectors compete avidly against one another be the one to obtain the best objects. (And what I find most interesting was these jealous, avaricious, r
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1703 London is the setting for the latest book from Elsa Hart, a favorite author. She has succeeded in delivering a complex and interesting portrait of those early pioneers of London society who were known as collectors as well as those who had varying interests in famous collections with an eye on profit. At the center of the action are two young women of intellect and differing experiences who are surprised to reunite having known each other well in youth.
The British Museum was yet to open fo
Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne.

My reading preferences usually run toward mysteries and thrillers set in the present or a couple decades ago, but every once in awhile I enjoy a good historical mystery, especially if the premise is an intriguing one.

** Minor spoilers ahead **

When Cecily Kay arrives at Barnaby Mayne's home to study his vast collection of plant specimens, she did not expect to be embroiled in a murder investigation.

But, that's what happens w
Kayla TM
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: giveaways
As the world begins to open up, in 1703, collecting things of interest becomes a fad. In London, one of the largest collections belongs to Sir Barnaby Mayne, whose cabinets fill his home. A group of people gather for a tour of the collection, but it ends with the discovery of Sir Barnaby Mayne dead on the floor of his study and a confession that Lady Cecily Kay doesn’t wholly believe.

To be honest, I struggled through the beginning of this book. It starts slow and builds from there, but the begin
Sep 02, 2020 rated it liked it
This historical mystery started strong with descriptive writing that really painted a vivid picture. Halfway through two historical inaccuracies began the slide into an average, but mostly enjoyable novel. The last third became a bit crowded with plot twists.
Apparently this is the first in a series featuring the two unconventional female sleuths. I’ll hope for a tighter storyline in book two.
Blaine DeSantis
Aug 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Thank you NetGalley and St, Martin's Press for this advance copy in return for my honest review. I feel that I should have liked this book a whole lot more than I did. The plot is pretty good, a private collector of museum type pieces back in the early 1700's is found murdered and his assistant quickly admits to killing him and then runs away and disappears before he could be captured. See, pretty good. We have two ladies who are involved in trying to find the real killer and a whole host of pos ...more
Carol lowkey.bookish
Aug 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
I loved the unique historical setting of this book. A 1700’s London house of a curiosities collector was the perfect dark and gloomy place to set this murder mystery. The atmospheric book made me feel like I was in that dark and claustrophobic setting throughout the book.

The main character, Lady Kay is strong, smart, and fearless. I thought Lady Kay’s relationship with her longtime friend, Meacan, was a little awkward. I didn’t get the sense that there was much affection between the two. Althoug
Dawn Michelle
First, I really enjoyed this book. I didn't really know what to expect when I started it [I sure didn't realize it was set in 1703, a time period I know next-to-nothing about] as I tend to not read too much of the description of the book, but it quickly sucked me in and I found myself completely enthralled.

The problem when you read a book in a time frame you are not accustomed to is, you spend a LOT of time looking things up [50,000 pounds sterling is close to 4 million pounds in today's money,
May 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Elsa Hart follows her wonderful Li Du mysteries with a new series set at roughly the same period, early 18th century, but a world away in England. Despite the change of scenery, her fascination with travel and the stories and obsessions it can engender continue to be a centerpiece in this new novel.

Despite starting a bit slowly with some awkward writing at the outset, the story gathers pace and interest as the new set of characters get involved in solving a classic mystery with a limited set of
I received this from

"London, 1703. One elite community attempts to understand the world by collecting its wonders. Sir Barnaby Mayne, has devoted his life to filling his cabinets. When he is murdered, Cecily Kay sees too many inconsistencies for her to ignore."

An okay murder mystery although the pacing felt jagged. It dragged a bit in the middle and felt rushed at the end.



I was looking for something fun and unique, and boy did I find it in The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart. This author wasn't on my radar before, but she sure is now. This is my first book in the historical mystery genre, and I quite enjoyed it. I kept forgetting it was 1703 London, but I think the author set the scene perfectly, and I would always be reminded through her writing. The idea of the collectors was just fascinating to me, and although I don't know anyone like this, I kind
C.P. Lesley
Lady Cecily Kay has just returned to England when she encounters Sir Barnaby Mayne. It’s 1703, Queen Anne is on the throne, and London’s coffee houses are buzzing with discussions of everything from science and philosophy to monsters and magic. Of course, Cecily has no plans to join the ongoing conversations; coffee houses bar the door to female visitors, however intelligent and learned. But she has secured something better: an entrée to the house of the city’s most influential collector, where ...more
Addie BookCrazyBlogger
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-s
Cecily Kay is an explorer during a time when most women scientists are regarded with laughter or suspiciousness. She’s estranged from her husband, mostly due to his selfishness and her own scientific pursuits, so she moves back to London in order to study with one of the greatest collectors in the world, Sir Barnaby Mayne, whose impressive various scientific experiments are not only fascinating but worth a lot of money. On the day of her arrival, she finds an old school friend, Meacan, who was h ...more
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Elsa Hart, long may you live and continue to write as you do here in this utterly captivating historical mystery. I am in awe - how do you move so smoothly from the wonderful Li Du novels set in ancient China to this setting, late seventeenth-century London? Reader, if you're familiar with the term "cabinets of wonder" you'll delight in this story of maniacal collectors and the people who serve/supply them with everything from the stone that David used to kill Goliath to ranks of glass jars fill ...more
Excellent! What an entertaining listen!
Marjie C-O
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Decent story but overlong run-time with too many red herrings. I finally resorted to skimming in the last 1/4 - rare for me. My main gripe was the setting or lack thereof, followed closely by dearth of historical details as regards daily life. There is a no sense of when or even where in time the tale takes place. 1703? Oh really? Why? This could (and should?) easily have taken place - and more realistically - in 1803 or 1903. If the action of a story, especially with female protagoni ...more
gwendalyn _books_
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne
By Elsa Hart

The year was 1703, and Queen Anne Occupied the throne.

Lady Cecily Kay, husband has sent her from Smyrna after expressing too much interest in her husband's business dealings.
She has an appointment with Sir Barnaby's at his home. Wanting to identify some her own her plant samples she has acquired in Smyrna.

Lady Cecily Kay along small group of men are with Sir Barnaby Mayne,as he gives a tour of his extensive collections that co
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Elsa Hart is the author of three acclaimed mystery novels set in eighteenth-century China. The most recent, City of Ink, was one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2018. The daughter of a journalist, Elsa was born in Rome and spent much of her childhood abroad, attending international schools in Moscow and Prague. She is drawn to stories about travelers throughout history, and likes to put her o ...more

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