“Meet Melissa: cat lover, caring mother… daring detective?
Melissa Craig is absolutely delighted with her new life in an old crumbling cottage, spending her days pruning the primroses and getting to know Binkie, the ginger cat next door. She only wishes she had made the move to the countryside sooner.
But when a knock at the door brings news of a shocking discovery, she suddenly finds herself thrown in to the middle of a baffling mystery: the bones of a young woman have been found in the woods just behind her new home.
Perhaps the little village of Upper Bembury is not as idyllic as it first seemed?
Strange phone calls in the night convince Melissa that the police are barking up completely the wrong tree, so she can’t resist doing a little digging of her own. From the bingo hall to the beauty salon and beyond, her search ruffles a few feathers and uncovers many of the village’s most scandalous secrets, but gets her no closer to finding the culprit…
The discovery of a tatty old photograph in a drawer is the final piece of the puzzle she needs, but as a newcomer in this close-knit community, does Melissa have what it takes to get to the bottom of this extraordinary murder mystery alone?”
I wanted to have this review up yesterday, which was publication day for this book, but events overtook me so my apologies for that, but better late than never! This is the first in a planned re-publication by Bookouture of all twelve Melissa Craig mysteries by Betty Rowlands and, having read this one, I am very much looking forward to catching up with the rest of the series. This book was previously published as A Little Gentle Sleuthing.
Melissa Craig is a forty-something writer of crime fiction who moves from London for a quieter life a sleepy Cotswold village and to escape an unsatisfactory relationship. However, in the way of cosy crime novels. she soon finds that the village is not as sleepy as it seems and the discovery of a dead body in the local woods by Melissa’s neighbour stirs up a hornet’s nest of intrigue in which Melissa is soon embroiled, in the grand tradition of a Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher.
This book is delightful. Melissa is a very warm and likeable character with just the right acerbic edge to give the story a bit of bite and make you buy into the fact she gets up to all kinds of derring do that are not naturally befitting introverted author types. The author gives her a variety of fascinating sidekicks including her artistic and slightly eccentric neighbour who plays devil’s advocate to Melissa’s wilder ideas and a young, idealistic reporter from the local paper who eggs her on and provides the useful source of pertinent information through his contacts. I really liked the fact that she is getting her support and information from a reporter rather than a police contact, it was a nice spin on the usual trope and allowed free rein for some unorthodox and possibly illegal investigative manoeuvres.
The plot has plenty of twists and turns and is predictably unlikely but extremely entertaining as it takes in the local vicar, a strip club and beauty salon. The author has a great line in gentle humour to keep the writing light and easy to read and I was engrossed from start to finish. I did feel that the plot sped up a little too much at the end and the crime was solved in a bit of a confused and rapid jumble that could have done with being drawn out slightly longer to make more sense but we got a satisfying conclusion in the end and at this point I was so in love with the characters and the setting that I forgave the author this and was ready to leap in to the next one.
A great book for fans of Agatha Christie and M. C. Beaton and lovely addition to the cosy crime canon.
Murder at Hawthorn Cottage is out now and you can buy a copy here.
About the Author
Betty Rowlands burst on to the crime scene by winning the Sunday Express / Veuve Clicquot Crime Short Story of the Year Competition. Her success continued with her highly acclaimed Melissa Craig mysteries. She is an active member of the Crime Writers’ Association and regularly gives talks and readings and serves on panels in crime writing conventions.
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