A good start to a new mystery series. 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Black Thorn for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.
At the start of one of the English summer’s highlights, the annual literary festival in the pretty little country town of Mold-on-Wold, famous critic Bryce Peabody is found dead in his bed at the White Hart Hotel. At first it seems as if fifty-something Bryce might have succumbed to a heart attack, but the forensics team soon uncover evidence of something more sinister.
Bryce had made many enemies in the past, with his scandalous private life and scathing reviews. Could it be that one of the many writers he insulted in print has taken a bitter revenge? Or perhaps there’s a more personal reason? Unable to help himself, crime writer Francis Meadowes, who is also staying at the White Hart, is drawn into a role he knows only from his own fiction, that of amateur detective.
This is an entertaining whodunnit. Francis Meadowes gradually becoming the centre of the story, in the role of crime-writer-turned-sleuth, worked well because it gave him a plausible reason to know the details of police procedure. When pondering the circumstances of the murders he tries to imagine they are in one of his plots, particularly when it comes to drawing up a list of suspects. This reminded me slightly of Castle – if any of you are familiar with that TV series – although Francis is far more low key and self-effacing than Richard Castle!
The plot twists and turns nicely, getting you to change your mind regularly about who did it. I was very pleased with myself when my suspicions were correct! I must confess I didn’t manage to figure out the motive(s), but it’s nice that some things are kept back as surprises.
The characters are an interesting bunch and the literary festival setting allows for amusing satire of the publishing world which never turns mean-spirited. And some of the more outlandish surnames, often only mentioned in passing, made me chuckle.
The main character, Francis, is likeable and copes well with all the situations he finds himself in. That said, I did think his decision to go the full Poirot at the end of the case (gathering everyone in a room for the big reveal) happened quite suddenly and his speech was a little lengthy. However, it was perfectly in keeping with the type of resolution you’d expect in this sort of classic murder mystery.
Overall: this is a good start to a new whodunnit series which introduces a likeable amateur sleuth.
Claire Huston / Art and Soul