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Sunday 28 April 2019

‘The Temptation’ by Vera Morris

Published by Accent Press,
4 June 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78615276-3 (PB)

A former PE teacher, school secretary and cook are unlikely candidates for the job of private detective, but the Anglian Detective Agency is up and running nonetheless, and about to embark on its first big case. Two ex-cops are also part of the team, and the three aforementioned ladies were involved in bringing down a particularly nasty serial killer in the first book in this 1970s-set series, so they're pretty good at what they do.

The case starts off as a missing person investigation which has already been given up on by the police and another detective agency. Thirteen-year-old David Pemberton disappeared without trace two years ago, leaving behind no evidence other than some extraordinary drawings which reveal not only a talent well beyond his years but also an acute eye for the world around him. Frank and Stuart, the agency's ex-cops, start to delve into David's background, and meanwhile Lauren, the ex-PE teacher, looks into another apparently small mystery at the request of a friend.

Both cases rapidly become a lot more complicated than they seemed at the outset. A great deal nastier too: far more unpleasant than you'd expect in a quiet part of the Suffolk coast, but then exposing the dark underbelly of beautiful areas is very much the stuff of crime fiction. Fortunately, most of the team (Frank has his own cottage) have a lovely home-cum-headquarters to retreat to, and Mabel the housekeeper is a top-class cook.

The plot is nicely convoluted and builds to a gripping climax, and the characters, especially the five members of the agency, are well drawn. But for me the domestic background, coupled with a highly visual evocation of both the surrounding area and the early 1970s, is what really brings the story to life. Mabel and Stuart's September romance hits a few bumps; there's plenty of unresolved tension between Laurel and Frank to be followed up in future books in the series; and Dorothy, the former school secretary, reveals a core of steel. There's also a detective inspector whose support may prove invaluable in future; and a cast of interesting potential baddies, not to mention a few surprises. 

Vera Morris is one of those unexpected gems who turn up occasionally on the crime fiction scene. This is a series that could run and run, and I for one hope it does.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Vera Morris blew soap bubbles in Woolworth's, cooked in hotels and electro-fished in Welsh rivers, before becoming a teacher.  Most of her teaching career was in a local mixed comprehensive in South Oxfordshire, where she became Headteacher. Her interests include writing, gardening, cooking, reading, the theatre, museums and art galleries, and travelling in her campervan.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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