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Monday 5 July 2021

‘The Evening’s Amethyst’ by Marni Graff

Published by Bridle Path Press,
May 2021.
ISBN: 978-0-9908287-3-0 (PB)

Children’s writer, Nora Tierney is an American who has chosen to settle in England, and now she is happily living in Oxford with her fiancé, Detective Inspector Declan Barnes, her toddler son and their puppy, Typo. Nora does not take her blessings for granted. Ten weeks previously, Sean had been kidnapped; fortunately, he was recovered unharmed, but Nora still has to fight her instinct to be over-protective and not let him out of her sight.

One morning, Nora is phoned by her stepsister, Claire Scott, a student doing a postgraduate degree at Exeter College. Claire is deeply distressed because a good friend and fellow student, Beatrice Jones, has fallen down the stone staircase outside their rooms and has died. Claire did not see Beatrice fall but she was one of the first people on the scene and was kneeling beside her and holding her hand when she died. Nora is sorry for Claire’s grief but glad that her stepsister has turned to her. With Declan’s agreement, Nora takes Claire home with her for a few days. At the same time as Claire phones Nora, Declan is summoned to Exeter College to take charge of the investigation into whether Beatrice’s death was accidental or due to foul play.

Everybody says that Beatrice was a lovely person, who, despite being an outstanding student of children’s literature, put kindness above everything. However, the post-mortem examination of her body reveals marks that indicate she was in a tussle with someone and was almost certainly pushed over the railing to her death. This is confirmed when Claire recovers somewhat from the shock and recalls that she had heard whispering just before Beatrice fell and remembers the word Bea screamed as she plummeted over the railing. Nora has been involved in detective investigations before and she is determined to help Declan get to the truth about Beatrice’s death, especially as, until the death is solved, Claire must remain a suspect, albeit a very unlikely one. It seems evident that the main suspects must be those who had access to the college: four students, including Claire, and two of Beatrice’s tutors.

Although everyone speaks very highly of Beatrice, there are secrets in her life, many of which become apparent during the police investigation. Her home life had been far from perfect because her snobbish mother was so determined to control her life that Beatrice moved from Cambridge to Oxford to escape her. Her parents believe that she is working in Oxford at the weekends, but Bea has told her fellow students that she goes back to Cambridge every weekend to work as a carer for a little girl called Verity. Only Beatrice’s twin brother, Benedick, knows the truth and he is uncertain whether to break his promise to his sister and speak out. Nora and Declan follow their own lines of enquiry, although Nora always keeps Declan informed of her discoveries. However, just as the investigators discover Beatrice’s secret, another player takes a hand and, in a tense, fast-paced conclusion, Nora and Declan have to move quickly to avert another tragedy.

Beatrice’s death is not the only case that Declan’s team are required to investigate. However, the second is far less urgent as it is a cold case, a child abduction case that began twenty years earlier. A young man makes an appointment to consult Declan because he suspects that he is really the small child, Donnie Walsh, who had been taken from outside a pub in Cumbria in 1992. Declan and his second-in-command, Detective Sergeant Watkins, are fully occupied with the Beatrice Jones investigation, and so Declan assigns this case to a junior officer, Detective Constable McAfee. The conclusion of this intriguing, minor investigation provides another shock and disruption to a family that has never knowingly done wrong.

The Evening’s Amethyst is the fifth novel featuring Nora Tierney, but it is an excellent stand-alone with the relevant backstory skilfully woven through. The plots of both investigations are intriguing and bound together by the theme of families and devotion. The characterisation is superb, evoking deep empathy with the victim and those who loved her. Nora is an engaging protagonist, warm-hearted and generous but also shrewd and determined; she is remarkable amongst cosy crime protagonists because she manages to investigate while prioritising the care and well-being of her infant son. Declan is also immensely likeable, and the interaction between his team is lively supportive and pleasant. The Evening’s Amethyst is a compelling read. It is cosy crime of the highest calibre, a page-turner that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Marni Graff  is the author of the Nora Tierney mystery series, set in the UK. She is also co-author of Writing in a Changing World, a primer on writing groups and critique techniques. A member of Sisters in Crime, Graff runs the NC Writers Read program in Belhaven and founded the group Coastal Carolina Mystery Writers. She has also published poetry, last seen in Amelia Earhart: A Tribute; her creative nonfiction has most recently appeared in Southern Women’s Her latest book is The Evenings Amethyst.

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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