9 May 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78615661-7 (PB)
The Anglian Detective Agency has bagged its next big case, and this time they're going undercover!
Sam Salter, the slightly sleazy owner of a small chain of holiday camps, is keen to get to the bottom of the disappearance of two of his young female staff members, before someone else goes missing and the press get involved. The police have already drawn a blank, but in fact paid the case little attention; the girls were of age and might simply have gone off with boyfriends.
Three of the agency's unlikely team of five leave newly married Stuart and Mabel at home to delve into the background, and go to work at the camp at the centre of the mystery: former detective inspector Frank as a gardener, former school games mistress Lauren as a swimming coach, and former school secretary Dorothy in the office. Each is tasked with investigating one or more of the suspects – and then two particularly nasty murders up the ante, supporting Frank's fear that the two girls are dead.
Like the previous two in the series, The Loophole is alive with intriguing characters. There's war-damaged Thomas Coltman, who spends his nights wandering the Suffolk coast, picking up detritus and building strange sculptures from it. Gareth Hinney the head gardener is grumpy and taciturn. Belinda Tweedie the boss's secretary is officious and pushy, though clearly very nervous about something.
Aside from Mabel's culinary wizardry when they all meet up for a confab, and Lauren's flagging romance with Doctor Oliver Neave, there's not much domestic background this time. Instead, there's a detailed look at day-to-day life behind the scenes at a holiday camp: squabbling in the office, a smelly compost heap hidden behind a wall, a constant flow of laundry for the beds and bathrooms. And then there's Orford Ness, a wartime bomb testing site still littered with unexploded ordnance, which earns its reputation as a bleak, sinister place.
The members of the Anglian Detective Agency solve not only the disappearances which had flummoxed the police (though their new ally DI Revie does lend a hand); they also unmask a murderer or two, and unravel another mystery dating back nearly thirty years, and they do it all with the same engaging blend of style and down-to-earth-ness as in the previous two books. The series is set in the 1970s, so I shan't be holidaying in Suffolk any time soon since they'll all have retired, but I hope I'll be reading about their exploits again very soon indeed!
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick