The library was my refuge when I was a child. Every Saturday my dad would take me and my brother to the library where we could check out a week’s worth of books. Daddy was a big reader himself, so it was automatic that we would grow up spending at least one evening a week in the library in search of books for ourselves
Daddy was a huge fan of mystery and western books. His favorite authors were Rex Stout and Erle Stanley Gardner for mysteries and Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour for westerns. While I started out with the Nancy Drew and then the Trixie Beldon books, I blew through both series in record time, along with the all the Hardy Boys books. It was not unusual for me to read five books a week so by the time I was entering third grade I was beginning to search the adult mystery shelves.
The first adult mystery books I got hooked on were the ones by Agatha Christie. She remains one of my favorite writers, and I have reread most of her books multiple times. I also got started on the Rex Stout books at an early age, and again, have reread most of those books over the years. While I tried Erle Stanley Gardner, I never got hooked on the courtroom dramas, so I would read those when I my other choices were checked out for that week. When I felt the need to try something different, I would read a Zane Grey, but they were never high on my list. Mysteries were my preference back then and remain the same today.
For a while I struggled to find authors who measured up to Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. It took trying lots of different book and listening to lots of recommendations to begin to find authors that I could enjoy almost as much as these two venerable giants in the field. A few years ago I finally had some breakthroughs and began to find authors whose works I enjoyed as much. Then, about a year ago, I discovered NetGalley. It’s a website that allows me to request a variety of books that are due to be published in the next few months. The catch? I have to request the books, and sometimes I get declined and for every book I am granted the publisher would like a review that gets posted in the public.
Those are two things I can live with. There are so many books being published every months there is no way I could possibly read them all. I couldn’t even read all the books in my preferred genre of mysteries that are published in a month. So, if I request one and am declined, I simply move on to the next one. As for reviewing them, that’s easy for me. Having made my living writing length reports, writing a review isn’t hard. Knowing how much I’ve relied on reviews to decide whether or not to try a new book or author, it’s not hard to make sure I give an honest opinion. Whether I like it or not, I always try to give my reasons for why I rate a book a certain way. Since there are a wide range of interests among people and what is or isn’t appealing to me may or may not be the same for the next time.
There are a few series I’ve stumbled across on NetGalley that appeal enough to me that I want to get them all, but the Jenny Starling series by Faith Martin is one of these rarities. What a treat when there is a new one being released, like the one just published. Here’s my review of the latest.
THE TEATIME MYSTERY by Faith Martin is the newest in the Jenny Starling series. As with the other books in the series, it is not necessary to read any of these books in order. Each story is completely self-contained and the only recurring character is Jenny Starling herself.
In this book, Jenny has been hired to cook for a village cricket match. Martin has written the description of place and match so brilliantly the reader feels as if they are enjoying a lovely warm afternoon in the English countryside. Details of the match itself don’t actually enter into the book, so it isn’t necessary to understand the game.
As one might expect, the lovely atmosphere of a cricket match and a promised cookout is marred by murder, this time of a rather obnoxious, entitled young man, Tristan, son of The Lord of the Manor. He was raised in an atmosphere of privilege which continues into his adulthood as he goes to work as an investment advisor for his father’s firm. Unfortunately, he is cavalier with some investors money and it is almost immediately apparent that this time he has been instrumental in losing the entire life savings of a man who was planning to send his grandson to university.
The questions begin immediately. Was the murder committed by the young man who’s future has been destroyed by reckless action? He certainly is seen confronting the victim and unsuccessfully demanding the return of his grandfather’s money. Is the murderer perhaps the grandfather, who on the surface appears to be a gentle man who put too much faith in the wrong person. Or, perhaps it’s someone else, a jealous husband who learned his wife has been bedded by the notoriously randy Tristan, or his own father, Lord of the Manor, who suspects Tristan may have had an affair with his step-mother, the trophy wife, or even a co-worker who sees Tristan as ruining his prospects at the investment firm. All of these possibilities and more are pursued by the police and meanwhile a second murder occurs which makes things even more complicated.
The police inspector and his sergent who are assigned to this area are once again new to Jenny, however they recognize her on sight, before she even has a chance to introduce herself. Jenny is dreading giving them her name as, in her experience, police are less than pleased to see someone being regularly associated with the scene of a murder. This time around, though, there is no resentment toward Jenny nor any suspicion of her. Instead the inspector immediately begins including her in the investigation, which places Jenny in a position of listening to interviews and examining facts right along with the inspector in charge.
Before the murder can be solved, there is a second murder, this one less expected than the first. Jenny redoubles her efforts, in part because she hopes if she can discover the solution in time, maybe the inspector will allow her to go ahead with the barbeque she has planned for after the cricket match. Jenny is first and foremost a cook, and she is almost always singularly focused on the food she is going to prepare and how it is received by those who have the opportunity to partake of it.
As in other Jenny Starling novels, she solves this one before the police inspector, using clues that were written and put right in front of the reader’s nose. This time I didn’t have it solved, mostly because I didn’t put the information together as to how the murderer could go undetected. Like other books in the series, I recommend this one to anyone who likes the classic mystery novel.
If the review sounds intriguing to you, the head on out to your local independent bookseller, check out the library, or go online and find yourself a copy. For me, it’s far too hot to do much of anything other than stay indoors and what better way to enjoy the than with a good book? Of course, if you are a sun and sand person, you can have just as much fun indulging in a little read while you soak up some rays. Either way, happy reading.