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Monday 2 September 2019

‘Secrets in the Cotswolds’ by Rebecca Tope

Published by Allison & Busby
22 August 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-74902433-8 (HB).

Secrets in the Cotswolds is the 17th book in the series featuring house-sitter Thea Osbourne, now Thea Slocombe since her marriage to undertaker Drew Slocombe.* 

Since her marriage Thea has now abandoned her house-sitting career but finds herself missing it. With Drew working Thea is struggling to keep her stepchildren occupied during the long summer break, so, when Detective Superintendent Sonia Gladwin, whom Thea has come to regard as a friend over the years that Thea has stumbled upon dead bodies in the leafy Cotswolds villages she house-sits, asks if she could help out her friend who needs someone to oversee the building work she is having done to a house in the village of Barnsley, Thea jumps at the chance, even though it will mean leaving her beloved spaniel Hepzie behind, as the house owner has vetoed the presence of a dog owing to the building work.

Now a one car family, Thea finds herself on her first morning short on food and transport. She sets out on foot to see what the village has to offer. After scrambling over several stiles, She decides that with nothing to see but wildflowers, brambles and bracken ahead of her she will turn for home. But suddenly out of the dense undergrowth crawls a woman, of around her own age.  She is in disarray, clearly frightened and not totally coherent.  Although, possibly Chinese, she speaks perfect English. She says her name is Grace and asks Thea to help her.  Despite her misgivings, Thea offers her sanctuary for the night, only to find her dead the next morning. 

The local police only have one suspect and that is Thea. With her friend Sonia busy with a huge investigation into the trafficking of wild animals Theo has no help forthcoming from that direction.  Her telephone calls home to Drew offer no solution.  He sounds to her ears ‘odd’. But he and the children say everything is fine.  So, Thea is on her own. With no car and knowing no one in the village, and missing her companion Hepzie, Thea marshals what assets she has. Well, the house maybe in a state, but it does have wi-fi.

And so, Thea sets out to discover what she can about Grace. As she investigates the woman's background, she discovers many anomalies that do not tally with the things Grace told her.  And maybe someone in the village knows something, so Thea sets out to find out what?  Of course, if someone does have something to hide maybe Thea should be careful. After all, if Grace is dead then clearly whatever the secret is it’s worth killing for, and it is said, when you have killed once the second time is easy.  A good village mystery. I do so enjoy them. Recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett
*There are four books in the series featuring undertaker Drew Slocombe. Dark Undertakings (1999) Grave Concerns (2000), The Sting of Death (2002) and A Market for Murder (2003)

Rebecca Tope is the author of four popular murder mystery series, featuring Den Cooper, Devon police detective, Drew Slocombe, Undertaker, Thea Osborne, house sitter in the Cotswolds, and more recently Persimmon (Simmy) Brown, a florist. Rebecca grew up on farms, first in Cheshire then in Devon, and now lives in rural Herefordshire on a smallholding situated close to the beautiful Black Mountains. Besides "ghost writer" of the novels based on the ITV series Rosemary and Thyme. Rebecca is also the proprietor of a small press - Praxis Books. This was established in 1992

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