Sunday, December 27, 2020

Amateur Sleuths in a 1920's English Village


A Beryl and Edwina Mystery # 4
Jessica Ellicott
Kensington Books
October 27, 2020

The fourth of Beryl and Edwina's adventures take place in their home village of Walmsley Parva. Spinster Edwina Davenport has lived there all her life, except for a stint in an all-girls boarding school, where she met Beryl, and the two became the unlikeliest of friends. Years later, internationally known, high-flying adventuress Beryl Halliwell is between husbands, a bit down on her luck, and determined not to return to America until Prohibition is repealed. Edwina lost much of her income during the Great War and is quite desperate about keeping up appearances. The two quickly fall into their old friendship, pool their funds, and discover a talent for sleuthing.

Beryl can be considered a reckless driver, not only by Edwina but also by local Constable Gibbs. Ticketed by the constable, Beryl appears before the Magistrate, a pompous individual named Farraday. Beryl proceeds to charm the Magistrate and escape what could be a large fine. Also in the court is handsome Declan O'Shea, new to the village, and Irish. Beryl thinks his harsh fine is more about his Irishness than his offense and hires him to help their ancient gardener. Declan also seems to be the natural suspect in a series of burglaries in the village as well.  The census-takers' schedules have been stolen in the burglaries, and the ladies are hired to find them. During the investigation, they visit the Magistrate and find him dead at the bottom of the stairs. Could the murder and the census be connected?

Murder Comes To Call is another fast, fun read in the series. However, I found it a little repetitive of earlier books and not as humorous as the first three. I enjoyed it, however, and thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy.

RATING 3 Stars

Shady Finances at a For-Profit College and a 30-year-old Mystery

Hester Thursby # 3
Edwin Hill
Kensington Books
December 29, 2020

Hester, her veterinarian "non-husband" Morgan, and his niece, 5-year-old Kate, are attending a gala at the new campus of Prescott University. Also in attendance are  Detective Angela White. The university owners are Tucker and Jennifer Matson, and the President is Vanessa Matson, their daughter, Vanessa's husband, Gavin Dean, is CFO. However, the real mover and shaker and a sort of adjunct to the family is Maxine Pawlikowski. The only missing principal is reclusive Jennifer Matson. During the course of the evening, Maxine approaches Angela and Hester for help, and a quick visit to Pinebank, the Matson's historical mansion in Jamaica Plain. Jennifer has called reporting that Pinebank has been broken into. Maxine doubts that and would like Hester and Angela's input before making a formal report. After talking to the vague Jennifer, the three are convinced that Jennifer staged the break-in. But then, Angela is knocked down by an intruder while checking the grounds. As an aside, Maxine asks Hester to use her considerable talents as a research librarian to track down some missing alumni. One of these missing alumni is soon found murdered in her apartment.

The connections between all the characters run wide and deep in Watch Her starting with the "accidental" drowning death of 2-year-old Rachel, the youngest Matson daughter on the Pinehurst property nearly 30 years earlier: a death which quickly disappeared from the news. As Hester observes, she "doesn't need to be a police officer to know that it would take a whiteboard, string, and about a hundred hours of group therapy to figure out the dynamics going on among these people." Shame and what lengths people will go to avoid it, along with some plain everyday larceny, play a prominent role.

Watch Her has all the crime fiction elements that I most enjoy: a complex puzzle, relatable if not all likable characters, and plenty of suspense. I highly recommend it, but I also would say that it would be best to read the previous books, Little Comfort and The Missing Ones. Both are page-turners, highly addictive, with good insight into Hester and Morgan's relationship. Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars