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Monday 15 November 2021

‘A Mystery of Murder’ by Helen Hollick

Published by Taw River Press,
15 November 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-83813182-1 (PB)

It is December 1971 and eighteen-year-old Jan Christopher is excited and flattered when her boyfriend, Detective Sergeant Laurie Walker, invites her to spend Christmas at his family home in Devon. Laurie has not returned home since he made the decision to move from his local police force because it was incompetent and corrupt. He knows he made a wise choice, because he is now working under an excellent, honourable senior officer, Detective Chief Inspector Toby Christopher, Jan’s uncle. Jan has not met Laurie’s parents before, so this is a significant development in their relationship. However, Jan also feels slightly reluctant at the thought of missing Christmas celebrations with her much-loved aunt and uncle, Toby and Madge, who have taken care of her since she was orphaned as a small child.

Although, at first, Laurie’s mother is slightly formal in her attempts to impress Jan, both of his parents are kind and welcoming, and Jan starts to enjoy her visit. The first social event she attends with the family is communal Christmas Carols around an enormous bonfire. Jan feels very happy until a young woman of about her own age confronts Laurie, demanding to be told what he did with ‘Colly’. The girl is Chloe Hayward, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Walker’s nearest neighbour, a slovenly smallholder called Godfrey Hayward. Hayward’s older daughter, Colette, had vanished on the same day as Laurie had left Devon to transfer to the London police force. Laurie admits having gone out with Colette a couple of times, mainly because he felt sorry for her because, after her mother had left, her father had treated her like a domestic slave and Laurie suspected he was also abusive to her. However, Laurie assures Jan that he had never had a close relationship with Colette and had last seen her when he left her at the train station on the day of his departure. Jan trusts Laurie and believes his explanation, although she finds it hard to cope with Chloe’s blatant and clinging attempts to flirt with Laurie. The arrival of Laurie’s autocratic, abrasive grandmother completes Jan’s acquaintanceship with her boyfriend’s family, and she begins to feel accepted and at home. The happy family atmosphere is disrupted when a pig’s head is placed on Laurie’s father’s compost heap and this leads to an even more grisly discovery, a bag full of human bones. As the incompetent local police bluster their way through the investigation, the fear arises that perhaps the fate of Colette Hayward has at last been discovered and that Laurie may be suspected of involvement in her death.

A Mystery of Murder is the second in the series featuring library assistant Jan Christopher and her detective boyfriend, Laurie Walker. It is a gentle, family-based, cosy mystery, with excellent period detail, which skilfully captures the ambience of the 1970s. There is both humour and tension in the description of suburban girl Jan’s introduction to the eccentricities and darkness of life in the Devonshire countryside. Jan and Laurie are both engaging protagonists and their families are likeable, quirky individuals. A Mystery of Murder is an enjoyable Christmas-based story that I recommend for readers who enjoy cosy crime in a period setting.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Helen Hollick is a British author of historical fiction. She is the author of the Arthurian trilogy, The Pendragon's Banner (3 books) and more recently two murder mysteries featuring library assistant Jan Christopher and her detective boyfriend, Laurie Walker.

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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