Murder in the Valleys by Pippa McCaithie

7th January 2023.

Having loved the second book in the series, (check out my review of Murder at the Old Abbey here), I had to read the first, which introduces Fabia Havard, a former superintendent, and DCI Matt Lambert.

When a young woman is brutally murdered and dumped in the river, Fabia’s the first to discover the body. Lambert and his team are soon on the way. It’s clear from the start that these two have unresolved issues. While Fabia may no longer be in the police, none of her instincts and experience has deserted her. She also knows many of the locals and potential suspects for the murder.

As both characters make their own enquiries to investigate the murder, they uncover poison pen letters, a secret diary and all manner of dodgy dealings among some of the richer elements of the village. It all makes for a complicated investigation that threatens to get out of control when a second death occurs in the local church.

I particularly enjoyed Fabia’s frustration, which results from her not being in the police and having the powers and authority to investigate. She has to use all her skills and local knowledge to uncover evidence and follow her hunches. Lambert is more considered and bound by procedure, but frustrated and often annoyed by Fabia’s interest and action. The conflict adds another layer to the story, as does the mystery of why she retired early from the police.

While it’s a fairly standard murder mystery story, the characters, conflicts, village setting and the author’s skill and writing lift it above the average crime novel and keep you turning the pages to the exciting climax and satisfying wrap up.

If you enjoy a good cosy mystery with an intriguing story and great characters, this is highly recommended. Having read the first two novels, I’m now looking forward to reading the rest.


Ex-superintendent Fabia Havard is struggling with civilian life when a local girl is found dead.

Out walking near the rain-swelled river running past her small Welsh town, she comes across the body of Amber Morgan. Fabia’s police training tells her instantly that the death is the result of foul play. But no longer in the force, all she can do is call it in.

Yet she has mixed feelings when she discovers it is her former colleague, Matt Lambert, newly promoted to chief inspector, who will head the investigation into the girl’s death.

Despite this, having known the victim, and bored with her new job as an illustrator, Fabia can’t help probing into the murder. However, her inquiries further upset the quiet of the town. Not least her neighbour, busybody Rhona Griffiths, who was seen arguing with the victim the day before her death.

Fabia’s activity bothers Matt Lambert but time and time again Fabia’s instincts are proved right. He can’t help leaning on her in order to progress the investigation but that will also involve confronting why she left the force years ago.

Can they put their differences aside and work together to bring the perpetrator to justice despite Fabia’s painful past being brought up again? Or will Fabia’s moonlighting get her into further danger?

Image of Murder in the Valleys by Pippa McCaithie

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