Genre: cozy mystery
An American woman
An English town
A whole lot of trouble.
“You’re a librarian, not a detective,” Catherine Penny’s daughter reminds her. But Catherine, suddenly single in her sixties, finds it easy to slip into sleuthing mode when she leaves behind New York City and a failed marriage for a lovely 17th century cottage in the idyllic English village of Far Wychwood.
But behind the town’s quaint stone walls and lace-curtained windows lurk dark secrets and whispers of witchcraft. And when her crusty neighbour George Crocker dies in a tragic fire, Catherine alone suspects arson. Lacking hard evidence, the police pay little attention, and the villagers swear that she must be mistaken. Catherine, however, is one feisty expatriate American who leaves no stone unturned when circumstances point to murder. She may not be Miss Marple – yet – but her ingenious knack for uncovering the truth is about to take Far Wychwood by storm!
I had big difficulties getting into this story, as it was totally not what I was expecting of a sweet cozy mystery, taking place in England.
Catherine is recently divorced, her husband fell in love with a very young woman, and ended their marriage. Of course Catherine is still full of resentment over that fact, as she never saw it coming. Her job at the library is no longer satisfying her, as she can’t embrace the digital new time, with ebooks and such. She loves handling books, feeling them, smelling them, looking at them. As her only daughter lives in Oxford, England, she decides to leave New York with all the memories it has, and move to England herself. She bought a small cottage close by Oxford, sight unseen, packs her things, and emigrates. She wants to be near her daughter and her new grandson. As Emily wants to go back to her work as a psychologist, Catherine will be able to look after Archie.
Catherine finds it very hard though, to adhere to Emily’s wishes in how her son is to be raised. No excitement, no overstimulation, no t.v.. And he gets to do whatever he wants, without ever being told no. It all is educational of course. Well, unless he is going to harm himself doing stuff. Archie is a very busy child, and Catherine is afraid she is in over her head with him. Emily was such a quiet child; she had no troubles at all with her.
And then there is the old neglected man with his cat in the cottage across the street from Catherine. He almost burns down the house on her first night in her new home, and Catherine is appalled that no one seems to care about that. Least of all the man’s son, who wants nothing more than his father to die she he can finally inherit. Catherine loathes the man, and when George Crocker does die, a few nights later, she is convinced someone murdered him, and burned down the house to reveal that fact. She manages to drag the body outside before the fire gets them all. Evidence the police finds, confirms her story, but the murderer will not be found easy. Arthur, the son, has an alibi, and while most people in the village hated George, no one had a motive to kill him after all this time. But no one seems to mourn him either.
Then there is the body find in the church yard, where the new vicar wants to remove an ancient stone cross to be able to build a youth hall. The whole village, and especially the local docter, are opposed, but the vicar is determined to do whatever he wants. He would like nothing better than to demolish the ancient church, the ancient cottages and build high rises and a new modern meeting hall. And the worst part is, he has the Bishop’s blessings to do whatever he wants to help the young people in town. Like they are waiting for such a hall to be build for them to be preached to! But now the body is found, he will have to wait with his plans until the police are ready with their investigations.
It takes a while for Catherine to make some friends amongst the villagers, and I liked the book better from that moment on.
But well, Catherine is too impulsive for my tastes; I totally disliked Emily and her strange notions of how to raise her son. If a boy never gets to hear the word NO, how will he ever grow up to be a rational man, who knows good and evil? A spoiled brat will never be a good man. Emily was very hard on her mother, who did her best raising her herself.
The old man’s black cat is also an important secondary character in this book, and I especially liked him in the end of the book.
The mystery was a good one, one I did not see coming at all. And of course, that makes the book better for me. But all in all, it took me a very long time to finish the book. The beginning was really dark and gloomy, which is not to my liking at all.
If this author had written lots more books, I probably would stop reading with this one. As she has only written one other book, I will probably try to find it. I do wonder what more troubles Catherine can find in this little English village.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian