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Friday 1 October 2021

‘Echoes in the Cotswolds’ by Rebecca Tope

Published by Allison & Busby,
22 July 2021.
ISBN 978-0-7490-2722-3(HB)

Thea Slocombe is asked to housesit for a couple of days while the owner goes into hospital for an operation. The problem is that it’s in the middle of a very busy week for her undertaker husband Drew. It doesn’t help that Drew’s assistant has a bad back and cannot help with the heavy lifting and grave digging.

Thea’s client is one for whom she has housesat on a previous occasion although Lucy Sinclair was living in a remote much larger property in another village back then. On that occasion, Thea’s duties included looking after an assortment of animals. Quite why Lucy needs a house sitter for her present house, Thea isn’t sure. Apart from there being no animals, she now lives in a semi-detached cottage in the centre of Northleach village with plenty of neighbours who could keep an eye on it for her. Lucy makes it clear that she does not trust any of her neighbours and is insistent on needing someone she can rely on to take care of the house.

Lucy makes a special journey to visit Thea to warn her about the locals including Hunter, who runs a highly suspicious club spreading unwholesome ideas throughout the village, and her neighbours Faith and Livia who Lucy is convinced are spying on her. Lucy gives the impression that even her ex-husband Kevin is up to no good frequently turning up in the village.

Leaving her highly capable step-daughter Stephanie to cope with Drew who is panicking because of all the work that has to be done, Thea sets out for Northleach. It’s not long before Thea meets Lucy’s neighbours and it becomes clear that despite their attempts to welcome her into the village, Lucy has gone out of her way to rebuff them all.

Things come to a head when a man is found dead in the village. Rumours spread that the death was drug related but Thea discovers the rumours are unfounded and she is drawn into helping the police uncover what really happened.

As always in her Cotswold Mysteries, Rebecca Tope paints a wonderful picture of the setting but what attracted me most about this novel is the character of Stephanie. This eleven going on twenty-one-year-old is the most likeable and down to earth character in the story. Without her, I’m not convinced her father could cope and even Thea benefits from her clear-sighted assessment.

Rebecca Tope has a wonderfully engaging easy style that keeps you turning the page long into the night. I look forward to the next in both this series and her equally enjoyable Lake District Mysteries featuring Simmy Brown.

Reviewer: Judith Cranswick  

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.

Judith Cranswick was born and brought up in Norwich. Apart from writing, Judith’s great passions are travel and history. Both have influenced her two series of mystery novels. Tour Manager, Fiona Mason takes coach parties throughout Europe, and historian Aunt Jessica is the guest lecturer accompanying tour groups visiting more exotic destinations aided by her nephew Harry. Her published novels also include several award-winning standalone psychological thrillers. She wrote her first novel (now languishing in the back of a drawer somewhere) when her two children were toddlers, but there was little time for writing when she returned to her teaching career. Now retired, she is able to indulge her love of writing and has begun a life of crime! ‘Writers are told to write what they know about, but I can assure you, I've never committed a murder. I'm an ex-convent school headmistress for goodness sake!’

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