Because of the pandemic, I’ve been at home most of the past several months, restricting my activities to places where I am at less risk of contracting the virus. Being at high risk, I understand the need for this; but sometimes I do long for a trip out; even one to go to the gym.
During this time I’ve read a lot as reading is one of my favorite ways to entertain myself. As a result, I’ve read some books that have been quite different from my usual choices, as well as some that should have been right up my alley; but somehow missed the mark.
It was a joy, then, to discover A Village Murder by Frances Evesham. It had been a while since I settled down in a small English village with it’s local shopkeepers, pub, and residents who embrace life in a small town in the country. What a treat to travel to Lower Hembrow a Somerset village, and read about the comings and goings of several of it’s residents.
Of course, what English village would be complete without a murder or two; at least in the world of mystery writers. This book is presented as something that would appeal to fans of Agatha Christie, among others, and i would agree with that assessment. You have the gentle atmosphere of the English countryside as originally presented in many Christie books, along with the quirky inhabitants of a village where everyone seems to know everyone else’s business. Here’s my review of the book, if you want to know more.
This is the first book in a possible new series by Frances Evesham. It features landscape designer Imogen Bishop and retired Police Detective, current pub owner Adam Hennessey. Imagen has just inherited the hotel her father owned and has come to the village to decide how to move forward. The hotel is in serious financial trouble; but the more time she spends there the more drawn to it she becomes.
As part of her immersion into village life, Imogen offers to host a night of song being proposed by a local songstress, Madam Maria Rostropova. Adam is somewhat smitten with Madam Rostropova; but doesn’t have the space to host the event, so he helps her approach Imogen who is delighted to have the opportunity to become more involved in village activities.
Unfortunately, Imogen’s ex-husband is murdered on the night of the gala, and his body is discovered by Imogen. The police rush to the conclusion that Imogen is the murderer, and Adam fears that having reached that conclusion they will stop looking for the real killer. Imogen also feels threatened by the police, so together they decide to investigate. With Adam’s previous police history he has some good contacts, he also has some knowledge of how to conduct a successful investigation.
As Imogen and Adam delve further into this murder, they also become curious about Imogen’s father’s death, which was originally determined to be an accident. The local police inspector is focused on Imogen; but Adam’s reputation is such that he will not totally discount Adam’s involvement and the information uncovered.
There are several side stories that add depth and color to this book, including the memories Adam has of his last case, some parts of which are brought up to him in vivid detail as he encounters similar events with the present investigation. Also, Imogen discovers evidence her father was once involved in a scheme to import and sell rare, protected plants, another mark against him as Imogen and he had a rocky relationship, partly due to his tendency to pursue women on a regular basis. In addition to these, Imogen’s high school crush reemerges, and is connected to the investigation into the rare plants. Imogen is once again smitten with him, but her hopes are initially dashed as she realizes he is accompanying one of her old friends to a high school reunion.
The pacing of the novel is good, and the plot is inventive enough to be engaging. There are clues galore, along with a healthy dose of red herrings to keep the reader engaged. Add to the mix a stray puppy Imogen befriends, and you have multiple elements designed to please a wide array of readers. I found Adam to be more interesting than Imogen, as well as more unique and fully developed. He is worthy of a series of his own, and this series could be improved by featuring him more, with Imogen as a secondary character.
A big thank you to Boldwood Books and NetGalley for allowing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
So, now to find something else to do since it seems as though my doctor thinks I should stay in a little longer. Hope all of you are healthy and able to avoid the worst of this virus. If you have the time, give a thought to my daughter, Erin, who’s an EMT which puts her on the front lines; and, as always, Happy Reading.