reviewed by Gail Byrd
This initial entry into the Flora Steele mystery book series by Merryn Allingham offers the potential for an engaging cozy mystery series. It takes place in a classically picturesque English village in the 1950’s. The setting includes the village shops, including Flora’s book store and her friend Kate’s bakery among others.
There is also the Priory, the estate on the hill which was owned by the local Lord. As was the case for many estates at that time in England, the upkeep became greater than he could manage and he sold it to a Londoner who wanted to make it into a posh hotel. His efforts included creating the “image” of an elegant hotel with himself as the embodiment in finely tailored clothing and an attitude of being slightly above the rest of the village inhabitants.
There is much about the village yet to learn, and hopefully that information will be more detailed in future books. Giving more depth to both the inhabitants and the village has the potential to create a more complex world. For example, Flora’s friend Kate, with her bake shop, is a lovely young woman and Alice, the cook at the estate, is an older friend of Flora’s who offers good advice and information. Deepening these characters, along with others where possible, would help create a village that feels more “real.”
Jack, who is a reclusive writer of crime novels, is forced to run his own errands when the young boy who has been helping him comes down with the mumps. Jack appears at the bookstore just when Flora discovers the body and is immediately drawn into the situation. When the police determine the death was due to a heart attack and rumors start around the village that Flora’s shop somehow caused it, she feels compelled to investigate and pulls Jack along with her.
The murderer’s identity will be easy to figure out for many experienced mystery readers who will still enjoy reading about the adventures of Fiona and Jack. As their investigation continues, a second character dies, a third character disappears. To solve the case, Jack and Flora must research the priory and its inhabitants from centuries ago, putting them in greater peril.
Readers who love cozy mysteries will enjoy the book, especially with the possibility it is the first in a series. The book is easy to read with a straightforward plot and good pacing and would probably be a good book for the beach or an airplane ride.
My thanks to Bookouture and Netgalley for an advance copy for review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.