Murder on High by Paula Williams

28th December 2021.

A gentle humorous tone underpins the story of Kat Latcham, who struggles with various issues in the village of Much Winchmoor. Reduced to three part time jobs, keen to break free of the constraints of a community that knows everyone’s business, and uncertain about her future with boyfriend, Will, the last thing she needs is another murder in the village.

As a reporter for the Dintscombe Chronicle, she’s expected to cover the murder. Only a teenager with a smartphone has beaten her to the story, providing photographs of the corpse that is found dead at the foot of the church tower. As the villagers gossip and speculate about possible killers, it soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary murder. With plenty of suspects, all with good motives, to choose from, Kat can’t help but become involved, often at the expense of work.

It all leads to an exciting climax on top of the church tower.

This is the fourth novel in the Much Winchmoor series, which has become a favourite of mine for its collection of sharply drawn village characters, its humorous swipes at village life, and the trials and tribulations that face Kat as she’s drawn into some intriguing murders.

If you enjoy a cosy village murder mystery, look no further.

Description

Remember, abseiling is only the second fastest way down a church tower.

The note pinned to the teddy bear lying at the foot of the church tower could have been a joke – if it hadn’t been for the body on the path next to it!

Somebody wants to make very sure that everyone knows this was not an accident or suicide. But why?

Suddenly, no one in the village has any enthusiasm for the Teddy Bear Abseil, planned to raise money for the children’s play area, as, once again, a murderer walks the narrow, twisty streets of the small Somerset village of Much Winchmoor.

And, once again, Kat Latcham, reporter/dog walker/barmaid and occasional reluctant hair salon gopher, finds herself unwillingly dragged into a murder investigation.

This fourth Much Winchmoor mystery is spiked with humour and sprinkled with romance. And, of course, one carefully planned, coldly executed murder.

Murder on High by Paula Williams

Burying Bad News by Paula Williams

29th November 2020.

In the third Much Winchmoor mystery, part time reporter, dog walker and barmaid, Kat Latcham once again finds herself investigating a dead body.

But this seems to be the least of her troubles as the Dintscombe Chronicle has been taken over by a company that wants scandal not reports on parish council meetings. Her job at the pub seems to be in jeopardy and her mother’s hairdressing business is leaking customers. She’s broke, desperate to leave the village and struggling with her feelings for Will.

So when one of two feuding neighbours winds up dead, her new editor turns up the pressure and wants the inside line. Kat has other ideas, especially as the husband of her best friend is the prime suspect. Having had too much to drink and lashed out at another resident in the pub, things are not looking good for him.

Like the previous two books in the series, it’s a delightful pastiche of troubles, gossip and sleuthing as Kat tries to keep too many plates in the air. The humour is never far from the surface, producing some great lines from lovingly crafted village characters you would instantly recognise.

Much Winchmoor is the perfect escape if you enjoy a cosy mystery that’s well-written and populated by characters you’ll warm too.  Kat’s both fun and more than a match for the local police when it comes to catching a killer.

Highly original and entertaining, this is a series to warm you like an open fire on a cold winter’s day.

Description

One severed head, two warring neighbours – and a cold-blooded killer stalks Much Winchmoor.

There’s the murder made to look like a tragic accident, and a missing husband. Could he be victim number two?

The tiny Somerset village is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country, and once again, reporter/barmaid/dog walker, Kat Latcham, finds herself reluctantly dragged into the investigation.

Things are looking bad for Ed Fuller, the husband of one of Kat’s oldest friends. Kat is convinced he’s innocent – but she’s been wrong before. Has Kat come across her biggest challenge yet?

Fans of Janet Evanovich could well enjoy this “funky, modern day nosey detective” transported to the English countryside.

The third Much Winchmoor mystery is, as always, spiked with humour and sprinkled with a touch of romance.

Burying Bad News by Paula Williams

Kept Secrets by Shawn McGuire

20th November 2021.

The idyllic community of Whispering Pines is rocked by a second suspicious death, only a few weeks after a murder. Once again, Jayne O’Shea draws on her past experience as a detective to investigate. Only she’s a citizen now, with a deadline to clear and renovate the old family house for sale.

Torn between her belief that Berlin, a performer in the town circus, was murdered and her need to work on the house, she can’t help treading on a few toes. When a new sheriff is hastily appointed to fill the void left by his predecessor, the situation gets worse. Young, inexperienced and determined to make a mark, the new sheriff dismisses the death as an accident.

A second death within the circus community brings things to a head and Jayne can no longer stand aside.

Like the first novel in the series, this is a cosy murder mystery, lifted by the characters, setting and idyllic way of life that’s in sharp contrast to the murders. Jayne is a worthy lead, torn by conflicting emotions as she’s pulled in several directions. Though she quit as a detective, it’s not so easy to stop being one when people are being murdered on your doorstep.

With a cast of fascinating characters, internal politics, personal conflicts and couple of murders to solve, Kept Secrets has it all. You can’t help rooting for Jayne as she tries to please everyone and find her true goal, while solving the murders and digging up more secrets as she renovates the house.

Then there’s her faithful sidekick, Meeka the West Highland white terrier, stealing every scene she’s in.

If you enjoy an absorbing cosy mystery with a great cast and plenty of backstory, check out this series. While there are plenty of references to the first story, Family Secrets, in this novel, it’s always best to start at the beginning to get the full benefit of watching the characters and backstory grow.

You can check out my review of Family Secrets here.

Description

If you knew you could catch a killer, would you? Tucked next to a pristine lake, the part-Medieval Europe, part-Renaissance Faire hamlet of Whispering Pines is a utopia . . . except for the recent murders.

One month after arriving in the Northwoods, former detective Jayne O’Shea has settled comfortably into small-town life and is making good progress with her task of getting her grandparents’ house ready for sale. Then the shocking death of one of the carnies rocks the community, and the villagers look to Jayne for help, placing her in an impossible middle ground of not wanting to get involved and needing to ensure justice is served.

When a second carney turns up dead, and the newly hired sheriff–more concerned with ticketing tourists than catching the killer–dismisses the death as an accident, Jayne has no choice but to step in.

Can she uncover the truth before the murderer strikes again?

Kept Secrets by Shawn McGuire

 

Crooked House by Agatha Christie

17th November 2021.

Who poisoned Aristide Leonides, the patriarch who had gathered his family to live in his London mansion? Was it his new wife, some fifty years younger than him? What about his sons and their wives? How about the grandchildren or their tutor? Then there’s his sister in law, the servants …

Into this mystery steps Charles Hayward, who wants to marry Aristide’s granddaughter, Sophia. His father, the deputy commissioner of Scotland Yard, wants Charles to go into the house and befriend the family and find out the details they don’t reveal to the police.

Naturally, suspicion falls on Brenda, the young wife, who has everything to gain financially. She’s friendly with the tutor, Laurence, a conscientious objector. But they have alibis, like the sons and their wives.

Progress is slow, the evidence circumstantial, and Aristide is not above a little trickery, as it turns out. It all builds slowly, twisting and winding as suspicion falls on most of the cast at some point. As always, the author manages to wrong foot readers, delivering a few small surprises before effortlessly delivering the biggest of all as the killer is revealed.

The story is filled with entertaining and eccentric characters, trapped in the crooked house, it seems, either by need, loyalty or love. While Charles narrates the story and delivers opinions of his own throughout, no one really makes any great headway into solving the murder, which keeps the story fresh and bubbling along until the dramatic ending.

It’s another masterclass in the traditional murder mystery that Agatha Christie helped to create and shape over the decades.

Description

A wealthy Greek businessman is found dead at his London home…

The Leonides were one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That was until the head of the household, Aristide, was murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection.

Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiancé of the late millionaire’s granddaughter…

The Crooked House by Agatha Christie

Death in the English Countryside by Sara Rossett

16th November 2021.

This gentle murder mystery features Kate Sharp, who finds locations for those making films. In this case, it’s Pride and Prejudice and her boss has gone missing in England. Kate sets off from Los Angeles to the village of Nether Woodsmoor in Derbyshire to find him.

Even with the help of Alex, a local guy who was helping to find locations, Kate can’t locate her boss. When his body turns up in the river, not far from his abandoned hire car, she needs to find out what happened fast before the film producers pull out.

Kate Sharp is an energetic and charismatic lead character in this well written cosy mystery. She manages to untighten the tightest village lips to uncover what really happened to her boss on his fateful trip to England. Like all good mysteries, the evidence has to be drawn out and slowly pieced together, generating a good batch of suspects along the way.

The characters are well drawn, the view of the English countryside not too cosy and the mystery well-paced and developed. I enjoyed Kate’s attitude and enthusiasm as she tackled potential suspects and the local police. The hint of romance, which bubbled under the surface, provided additional interest as Alex and Kate worked together to solve the murder.

Overall, an enjoyable cosy mystery that kept me turning the pages. Having a central character who scouts locations for feature films offers plenty of potential for further adventures.

Description

Location scout and Jane Austen aficionado, Kate Sharp, is thrilled when the company she works for lands the job of finding locations for a new film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but then her boss fails to return from a scouting trip to England. Kate travels to England to salvage the company’s reputation.

Things go from bad to worse when Kate arrives in Nether Woodsmoor, a quaint village of golden stone cottages and rolling green hills, only to find no trace of her boss. Even the rumpled, easy going local scout they consulted, Alex, doesn’t know where he might be.

Increasingly worried about her boss and with an antsy director waiting for updates about the preproduction details, Kate embarks on a search that includes a pub-crawl and cozy cottages as well as stately country manors. But with no sign of her boss, she begins to suspect that the picturesque village and beautiful countryside may not be as idyllic as they seem.

Deathin the English Countryside by Sara Rossett

What Hurts the Most by Willow Rose

30th October 2021.

This is the first of the Mary Mills mysteries, set in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

What a life she’s had – traumatised by the death of her mother, separated from her husband, sacked from her high-powered job as a reporter, and she’s on a sadistic killer’s hit list. Could things get any worse? Yes, her brother’s been arrested for murder.

It’s a complex story that features a close knit community of friends in a coastal town. After her mother was killed, Mary left Cocoa Beach. Now, thirty years later, she’s back to rescue her brother, refusing to believe he killed anyone.

It’s not all plain sailing as returning evokes plenty of memories. Then there’s her husband, Joey, back running his surf school where it all began. It takes Mary time to find her feet and make any headway, even when she discovers her brother was having an affair with the wife of a general from the nearby military base.

Then there’s a killer, running around stabbing people in the neck with scissors – people who were friends in a particular group at school. The race is on to save the remaining people in the group.

The story moves back and forth in time and the episodes seem to have little in common until the author draws them all together as the climax hurtles into view. At times it’s breath taking, at times humorous, and never less than emotionally involving as the story unfolds.

The author doesn’t pull any punches and handles the various strands and characters with confidence and conviction, painting a credible and exciting murder mystery with some devilish twists that could leave you gasping in disbelief.

At first, I thought there was too much going on, too much to absorb and so many characters to keep in my head. But as the story unfolded, I was drawn in until I couldn’t stop turning the pages. This is a memorable novel for all the right reasons.

I’ve got the next Mary Mills on my Kindle, ready to read.

Description

Am I pretty?

Imagine being asked that question standing face to face with a killer. What would you answer?

While her life is going from bad to worse, journalist Mary Mills receives a disturbing phone call from her father. Her brother was arrested, charged with murder.

Mary decides to go back to her hometown of Cocoa Beach, Florida, which she left twenty years back and has never visited since.

Working with her old friends in from High School, she tracks down the most disturbing and surprising killer this town has ever faced before a shocking conclusion turns everything upside down for them.

Determined to solve the murder and to have her brother acquitted, Mary is forced to face demons from her past she never thought she would have to again.

What Hurts the Most by Willow Rose

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

13th October 2021.

First published in January 1922, this is another fast moving adventure, giving Tommy and Tuppence their first outing. Naturally, the language and attitudes are of the time, but in all other respects this is a dramatic ripping yarn that’s fun to read, easy to follow and filled with all the twists, turns and surprises I’ve come to expect from the Queen of Crime. Indeed, at the beginning there’s some clever plotting that brought a smile to my face.

The writing and story-telling is confident and bold, driven by the two main characters, who have a lust for excitement and an almost fearless approach to any danger they face. Can they find Jane Finn, who seems to be at the centre of a political plot that threatens the government?

While Tuppence is the main driving force in the duo, Tommy has his moments and it’s beautifully delivered as the pace and action hots up for a memorable climax. The usual explanations follow to show the reader how the mystery was solved and why.

In many respects, it’s light, frothy and easy to read, but this is a result of great writing and plotting, effortlessly delivered to satisfy the reader. If you’re interested in historical crime, this is a great introduction.

Description

Tommy Beresford and Prudence ‘Tuppence’ Cowley are young, in love… and flat broke. Just after Great War, there are few jobs available and the couple are desperately short of money. Restless for excitement, they decide to embark on a daring business scheme: Young Adventurers Ltd.—”willing to do anything, go anywhere.” Hiring themselves out proves to be a smart move for the couple. In their first assignment for the mysterious Mr. Whittingtont, all Tuppence has to do in their first job is take an all-expense paid trip to Paris and pose as an American named Jane Finn. But with the assignment comes a bribe to keep quiet, a threat to her life, and the disappearance of her new employer. Now their newest job are playing detective.

Where is the real Jane Finn? The mere mention of her name produces a very strange reaction all over London. So strange, in fact, that they decided to find this mysterious missing lady. She has been missing for five years. And neither her body nor the secret documents she was carrying have ever been found. Now post-war England’s economic recovery depends on finding her and getting the papers back. But he two young working undercover for the British ministry know only that her name and the only photo of her is in the hands of her rich American cousin. It isn’t long before they find themselves plunged into more danger than they ever could have imagined—a danger that could put an abrupt end to their business… and their lives.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

Witness to Evil by Janet Dawson

27th September 2021.

Jeri Howard series always offers something different, usually a social problem that encapsulates a crime or two. In this outing, Jeri has to track down runaway teenager, Darcy, who’s gone to Paris. It soon becomes clear that she’s tracking back through her grandmother’s time in Paris as a refugee from the Nazi occupation during World War II.

This history offers a hint at what’s to follow once Darcy’s returned to California. Sent off to a school for troubled teenagers, it isn’t long before she runs away and asks for Jeri’s help once more. It looks like Darcy may have murdered someone at the school.

But the truth is more sinister, as Jeri soon discovers.

Once again, Jeri is on the trail. The hunt through Paris is beautifully described. Darcy and her grandmother are terrific characters, both feisty and passionate about the truth. Back in California, Jeri’s journey is met with resistance from almost all sides as the school closes ranks, making for an intriguing and tense investigation.

It all leads to a dramatic climax that’s as exciting as it is tense, providing the perfect finish to a riveting story.

While you can read this book as a standalone, the Jeri Howard series is well worth a try as subject matter is always as intriguing as the investigations she undertakes.

Description

Oakland private eye Jeri Howard has landed a sweet gig: five days of Paris cafes and museums on somebody else’s franc. The assignment? Track down and retrieve a precocious seventeen-year-old who swiped her mother’s credit card and took off for Paris. Finding the girl (who’s not exactly hiding anyway – after all, she’s using her mother’s credit card) is no mystery for a P.I. with Jeri’s investigative skills. But the girl, Darcy, is on a mission to uncover family secrets. Her grandmother, it seems, has a past life and identity she’s shared only recently. As it turns out, Darcy didn’t need to travel to Paris to confront the evil that retains its vicious hold on the world in a modern-day counterpart. It’ll be waiting for her at home.

Jeri’s mission accomplished, they part, with Jeri’s invitation to call if ever Darcy needs help. Distress code: “We’ll always have Paris.” The call’s not long in coming. Darcy is now a “person of interest” in a murder case and, once again, in the wind. People at her new school seem to believe the worst of her, the police are inclined to agree, and she’s been sighted driving the dead man’s car with a couple of skinheads on her tail. This is not what Jeri was picturing when she cautioned, “Stay out of trouble, okay?”

The murder victim was the school handyman, an average-looking joe who kept some pretty rough company – skinheads with steel-toed boots and swastika tattoos. School officials have issued a gag order, but Jeri manages to glean one clue from Darcy’s roommate – the murder victim is not who he seems. Jeri relentlessly chases down the victim’s identity and teases out the connections that weave a web of hate from World War II to Darcy’s campus. As always, Jeri gets the last word – and the satisfaction of getting in a few good licks.

Witness to Evil by Janet Dawson

A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin

26th September 2021.

The story, set in 1960, starts slowly with a murder connected to a past death. Ryder, a trainee coroner, sat in at the original inquest, convinced witnesses were lying. Now, as a coroner, he wants to investigate the original death to uncover the truth, but he needs a police officer to assist him. WPC Loveday, a fresh but ambitious officer, is assigned to help him.

As soon as they start working together, the story moves up a gear and develops into an intriguing double investigation. Both characters grew on me as they uncovered a somewhat gothic plot that didn’t pan out as I expected, which is always a bonus.

It’s always enjoyable to return to the days before DNA, forensics and computers dominated investigations. Detectives had to use their wits, experience and intelligence to deduce and solve crimes.

The novel is a worthy start to a new series that offers something different from the usual police procedural novels that seem to follow the same old well-worn tracks.

Description

Oxford, 1960. There’s a murderer on the loose and two unlikely heroes are poised to solve the case.

Meet Probationary WPC Trudy Loveday – smart, enthusiastic and always underestimated.

In the hope of getting her out of the way, Trudy’s senior officer assigns her to help coroner Clement Ryder as he re-opens the case of a young woman’s death. She can’t believe her luck – she is actually going to be working on a real murder case.

Meanwhile, the rest of the police force are busy investigating a series of threats and murders in the local community, and Clement can’t help but feel it’s all linked.

As Trudy and Clement form an unlikely partnership, are they going to be the ones to solve these crimes before the murderer strikes again?

A Fatal Obsession by Faith Martin

Rough and Deadly by Paula Williams

23rd September 2021.

In the second Much Winchmoor novel, Kat’s thrown into another murder investigation when Margot Duckett-Trimble is killed and left in a vat of cider. As she was standing for election to the parish council and full of self-importance, there’s going to be a long list of suspects.

But Kat already has enough troubles of her own to contend with. Without a permanent job and no money, she’s forced to live with her parents. Her dreams of escaping the sleepy village lie in tatters. And she’s not sure about her feelings for Will, or what he feels for her.

Somehow, she stumbles along, doing odd jobs here and there, freelancing for a local free newspaper, picking up village gossip along the way, especially where it concerns the murder. When her Aunt Tanya arrives in the village, keen to divorce her husband and start a new venture, events take a sinister turn and Kat’s problems multiply.

I enjoyed this engaging cosy mystery thanks to the likable characters, along with the humour and social comment that underpins the writing and story. All the typical characters you find in a village are here, with Prescott the dog stealing every scene as he wreaks havoc wherever he goes.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Description

Everyone knows Abe Compton’s Headbender cider is as rough as a cider can get. But is it deadly?

When self-styled ‘lady of the manor’, Margot Duckett-Trimble, announces she wouldn’t be seen dead drinking the stuff, who could have foreseen that, only a few days later, she’d be found, face down, in a vat of it?

Kat Latcham’s no stranger to murder. Indeed, the once ‘sleepy’ Somerset village of Much Winchmoor is fast gaining a reputation as the murder capital of the West Country and is ‘as sleepy as a kid on Christmas Eve’ when it’s discovered there’s a murderer running loose in the community again.

Kat has known Abe all her life, and she is sure that, although he had motive, he didn’t kill Margot. But as she investigates, the murderer strikes again. And the closer Kat gets to finding out who the real killer is, the closer to danger she becomes.

Rough and Deadly by Paula Williams