Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Murder by the Book by Debbie Young (reviewed by Bill Kirton)

The fact that this is a “Sophie Sayers Village Mystery” indicates from the start that the book will belong to the section of the crime genre labelled “cosy”. And yet its opening lines introduce us to two shadowy figures indulging in some far from cosy violence which results in one of them falling to his death down the village well. Thereafter, we’re introduced to a cross-section of the inhabitants of the village of Wendlebury Barrow and learn in entertaining detail of their relationships, interactions and some relatively harmless secrets. The distance between that opening violence and the minutiae of their everyday lives couldn’t be greater. It’s obviously a deliberate juxtaposition on the part of the author which, by setting the violence in a simple, unthreatening context, increases its dramatic effect and, simultaneously, the reader’s curiosity. That curiosity is sustained very cleverly throughout the book because there’s no indication until very late in the narrative of either the identity of the two people involved or the nature of the dispute which leads to the killing. Instead, the two threads of normality and violence are drawn together by an innocent and apparently unrelated celebration the villagers are planning, which eventually creates the circumstances for the killing and gradually reveals the victim and the potential motives of several of the characters with whom we’ve become familiar. As we near the climax, our suspicions are made to fall on some of these same innocents in succession before the final revelation and resolution. The writing is assured, the characters well drawn, and the various plot lines are often very funny. It’s a highly entertaining and probably addictive book – addictive because these are people with whom you’ll want to spend more time.

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