The second book in Cambridge’s delightful series about Agatha Christie’s housekeeper, Phyllida Bright, does not disappoint. The first one was a take on The Body in the Library; this book takes place at a “Murder Fête,” an early version of a mystery book conference. In this iteration, there are just a few authors, but they are Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Anthony Berkley. Pretty swoon-worthy. There’s also a short story contest judged by the celeb authors, and the outcome is hotly anticipated by the local mystery writing group. The prize is publication.
I was (am) a giant fan of Malliet’s Max Tudor series. I had always been aware of the St. Just series, but had never read one, and I am now a giant fan of this series as well. There are really very few practitioners of the traditional British detective novel working at the moment, and Malliet is one of the best. Her novels are very much golden age in pattern, with a series detective, a fast paced and tidy narrative, and in this case, a setting to die for – the Cornish coast.
Using a trope beloved of novelists from Agatha Christie to Deborah Crombie to Louise Penny, St. Just is on vacation with his fiancée (the wittily named Portia De’Ath – I hope she keeps her maiden name!) Like Crombie’s Duncan and Penny’s Gamache, St. Just seems to be the calm center of the storm. It made it completely believable that the local constabulary would turn to him for advice.
This novel will be published December 29.
This novel is more of a village cozy than a war novel, though it’s set at the start of WWII in the tiny British village of Pipley. The heroine, Olive, longs to enlist as a FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry), but she’s tethered to home, helping her father with her stepmother, who has MS, as well as with a young war refugee, Jonathon. She also has the responsibility of the family pigeon loft, a fine one, and one her bristly father hopes will meet with the approval of the NPS, or National Pigeon Service.
This is an utterly charming series debut. Dennison has two other series, but I think this may be my favorite so far. The story opens as recently widowed Evie sits in her lawyer’s office and discovers that she’s basically broke. Luckily, the lawyer’s secretary discovers a secret letter from Evie’s dead husband, telling her that she now owns a hotel thanks to an unpaid debt. Her sister, Margot, who has flown in from LA to be with her in England, heads back to Evie’s now up-for-sale house where she hatches a plan. For a little restful getaway, they will visit the hotel in question.
This book will be published on September 8. You can pre-order it here.
Along with Deborah Crombie, Peter Robinson, and Louise Penny, Ann Cleeves is one of the very best writers of traditional detective fiction at work at the moment. With now three strong series to her credit, one of the most delightful features the cranky Vera Stanhope, whose hopelessly messy and unstylish appearance conceals a sharp and perceptive mind. She’s Columbo in the British countryside, just a shade less congenial. This installment finds Vera face to face with the fancier branch of her family, impoverished landholders who can’t keep up the stately family home.
Every year, for many years now, I’ve set aside a day. If I’m lucky, and there are no distractions, it’s a whole delicious day devoted to Rhys Bowen. This year that day came August 4, when I cracked open the new Lady Georgie mystery, The Last Mrs. Summers, Rhys Bowen’s take on the classic Rebecca.
Georgie is a newlywed with her own house to run – Queenie making scones in the kitchen and starting (hardly any) fires – and life with Darcy to enjoy. Unfortunately, in the first chapter Darcy is off on assignment and when the lonely Georgie goes up to town her friends and even her grandfather are all busy. Dejected, she heads back home, only to run into her buddy Belinda, who has just inherited a place in Cornwall. She and Georgie decide to head to Cornwall to check it out together in quick order.
A mystery doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to be enjoyable – that’s certainly proven by the scores of cozy mysteries published each month. Another formula beloved by readers (and viewers of Acorn TV and similar networks) is the British village mystery, a slightly rarer commodity. Much of contemporary British crime writing is of the extremely dark variety. And while I’m certainly a fan of writers like Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Stuart MacBride, sometimes I yearn for something a little more in the Marple and Poirot mode.