reviewed by Gail Byrd
The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood will likely appeal to readers who prefer to read books that spend more time crafting the characters and situations. There are three main characters lead by Judith, an 80+ year old widow who tends to approach any problem head-on, challenging situations and declaring information about what she thinks without fully considering the consequences.
Judith meets and is joined by Betts, the obsessive compulsive vicar’s wife whose primary focus is on keeping everything, including herself, looking neat and orderly and Suzie, a dog-walker who was a friend of the third victim and has an unflappable approach to situations life throws at her.
Although Betts and Suzie decline the opportunity to work with Judith to discover the murderer, they are eventually drawn into Judith’s investigation. As the book progresses, all three women demonstrate depths and abilities that are not apparent at the beginning, particularly as they come together in a more organized way of solving the murders. This happens, in part, when Tanika, the inexperienced Detective Sergeant who becomes overwhelmed as she tries to stretch a limited team in order to solve this spate of murders, brings them in as civilian consultants.
The first murder happens when Judith is out for her nightly swim in the Thames. She hears a shout, then a gunshot. Although she reports it to the police she learns they are reluctant to classify the resulting death as murder. The second murder has some of the same traits such as a bullet to the center of the victim’s forehead and a medallion left at the scene, but Tanika is still reluctant to label it murder. When the third death occurs, again with the bullet to the forehead and planted medallion, she reluctantly agrees with Judith the deaths are murders. Because the police force is understaffed, the case falls to Tamika.
An ongoing theme in the book is the house Judith lives in, which some describe as a mansion on the river. Judith, however, appears to have limited resources, and the description of the interior is limited except for a locked door on the first floor. Several times Judith checks to make sure she still has the key around her neck and she appears reluctant to discuss this area with her new friends. Eventually access to the area is acquired and they learn Judith has a secret of her own.
The pace is somewhat uneven with the amateur’s investigations seeming at times to move lightning fast and others to take days to accomplish. This carries through to the last portion of the novel where the murderer is revealed. The reader will need to suspend their concept of time passing at points in order to concentrate on the women’s progress in investigating the murder.
I would like to thank Poisoned Pen Press for providing an advance copy of this novel for this review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
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