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Monday 5 July 2021

‘Murder in Devon’ by Judith Cutler

Published by Joffe Books,
20 August 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-78931-516-5.
Originally published September 2002 as Hidden Power.

When Detective Sergeant Kate Power first moved to Birmingham her life was in disarray, following the aftermath of the death of her partner, but now it is at last on an even keel: she has returned the dilapidated house she received from her great-aunt to good condition; she has a friendship with Detective Superintendent Rod Neville that promises to return to something more intimate; and she has just received her promotion to Inspector. Kate is waiting for her new placement to come through when, coincidently, she is offered a free weekend at a time share holiday complex and, to her surprise, DI Sue Rowley, her line manager, is eager for her to accept it and pushes for her to go to the complex in Devon. That accommodation is unavailable and so Kate and Rod go on the free break that is offered in Kent. However, it turns out to be far different from the luxury accommodation that had been advertised, and even more disturbingly Kate spots a surveillance camera in the bedroom.

Back at work, Kate is seconded to an undercover mission to investigate the same holiday company that was responsible for her disappointing weekend. She is to go to the Devon holiday complex, not as a guest but as a cleaner, to try to discover what the company is up to. Kate is not happy about this assignment, not because of her menial role but because she does not think that the job has been set up with proper precautions and nobody seems to be clear about the purpose of the investigation. Also, she is concerned that the sales staff she had met previously might recognise her. Kate is even more uncomfortable when she meets the officer that she is working undercover with, who is posing as her husband. Craig is an ill-mannered lout who threatens her with violence and makes it clear that he resents Kate and claims that she has slept her way to promotion. Sharing accommodation with Craig makes the job extremely unpleasant, and, even worse, Craig withholds essential details of the case, which adds to the danger.

Kate is successful in getting the agency she works for to send her to the holiday complex as a cleaner and she impresses the complex manager, Gary Vernon, with her efficiency and friendliness. By chance, Kate meets Vernon and his family in the supermarket, and a little while afterwards, he asks her to babysit his two children. Kate gets on very well with the children and she likes Vernon’s wife, Julie, and feels sorry for her because she is very seriously ill, which makes Kate’s job even harder. As she struggles to work out the exact nature of the criminal enterprise she is investigating, Kate shows herself to be a consummate professional, despite the shoddy arrangements and her hostile partner, but the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger becomes.

Murder in Devon is the fifth book in the series featuring Kate Power, although it works well as a stand-alone. It was first published in 2002 under the title Hidden Power. The characterisation is excellent, and the plot is interesting, Kate is an engaging protagonist, tough and professional but also conscientious and compassionate, and it is fascinating to watch her grow throughout the series of books featuring her. Murder in Devon is a very enjoyable read which I recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Judith Cutler was born in the Black Country, just outside Birmingham, later moving to the Birmingham suburb of Harborne. Judith started writing while she was at the then Oldbury Grammar School, winning the Critical Quarterly Short Story prize with the second story she wrote. She subsequently read English at university. It was an attack of chickenpox caught from her son that kick-started her writing career. One way of dealing with the itch was to hold a pencil in one hand, a block of paper in the other - and so she wrote her first novel. This eventually appeared in a much-revised version as Coming Alive, published by Severn House. Judith has seven series. The first two featured amateur sleuth Sophie Rivers (10 books) and Detective Sergeant Kate Power (6 Books). Then came Josie Wells, a middle-aged woman with a quick tongue, and a love of good food, there are two books, The Food Detective and The Chinese Takeout. The Lina Townsend books are set in the world of antiques and there are seven books in this series. There are three books featuring Tobias Campion set in the Regency period, and her series featuring Chief Superintendent Fran Harman (6 books), and Jodie Welsh, Rector’s wife and amateur sleuth. Her more recently a series feature a head teacher Jane Cowan (3 books). Judith has also written three standalone’s Staging Death, Scar Tissue, and Death In Elysium. Her new series is set in Victorian times featuring Matthew Rowsley. The second book in this series will be published on 31st December 2020.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts click on the title.

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