Sunday, February 19, 2023

A Hotbed of Murder and Criminal Activity in a Sleepy Market Town

Pignon Scorbion and the Barbershop Detectives #2
Rick Bleiweiss
Blackstone Publishing
February 21, 2023

Murder in Haxford is the second entry in Rick Bleiweiss's Pignon Scorbion cozy mystery series set in 1910 in the small market town of Haxford. Haxford may be a sleepy town, but it is a hotbed of murder and criminal activity for the dapper and erudite new Chief Inspector. Being new to the area, Scorbion quickly enlists the aid of an old friend, Calvin Brown, who owns the local barbershop. He also assembles a band of quirky characters who assist in his investigations. They include Thomas, Barnabus, and Yves, all barbershop employees. An ambitious reporter, Billy, at one of the local newspapers also wants to be in on the investigations. Last but definitely not least is Thelma Smith, the beautiful and brilliant proprietor of the local bookstore. The "deputies" make Calvin's barbershop the center of their activities.

Our first murder takes place at the Haxford Market Fair, at a hot air balloon demonstration. One of the balloons plummets to the earth carrying one dead occupant. However, the dead man was not killed by the fall but by an arrow to the heart. The cast of possible suspects includes an assortment of village drunks and "ne'er do-wells," their wives, and relations. But who and, as importantly, why? There are many more bodies to account for before the end of this complex case, and justice is done. Next comes the poisoning death of a moneylender/artist, which has to be the oddest juxtaposition of occupations ever. Several individuals are in deep arrears on their debts, but what of the people involved in his side business of forging the works of well-known painters? 

Murder in Haxford is a fun, quirky cozy, as was its predecessor, Pignon Scorbion and the Barbershop Detectives. Pignon Scorbion is a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot with none of their more annoying "tics." The descriptions of his sartorial splendor and two-toned shoes are always amusing. Haxford in 1910s England might never have existed, but it is a charming fantasy.

Thanks to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4 Stars

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