Published by Joffe Books,
16 September 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-78931-932-3 (PB)
The Supper Club Murders is the third book in the ‘Smart Woman’s Mystery Series’. It tells the story of what happens when Ursula Smart, her mother and Aunt Charlotte are invited by Lady Marsha Black to spend a weekend at Greystone Castle in a picturesque village on Dartmoor. The main event is to be a safari supper party which takes place in several houses in the village.
Things start to go awry from the start when as Lady Black takes the visitors on a tour of the castle only to come across a blood-soaked body falling to the floor from an Iron Maiden. It turns out to be a joke in bad taste, but it serves to reveal the strained relationship between Lord Black and his wife.
All sorts of simmering resentments are revealed as the bedraggled group struggle through the heavy rains from house to house for the various courses. The evening turns from bad to worse when they return to the castle to find a dead body trapped behind the fallen portcullis which cannot be raised from the outside.
It appears that the victim has been murdered with a blow to the head with a cannon ball. Before morning, two more bodies are discovered in equally unexpected places. The continuing downpour results in the village being cut off from the outside world by flood water. The phonelines are down and there is no mobile signal. Ursula is left to uncover the murderer before he or she strikes again.
A combination of dark humour, gothic horror, and decidedly quirky characters make this locked-room mystery difficult to categorise. This is the first book that I have read in this series and, not quite sure what to expect next, I found myself quickly drawn in and eager to turn the page.
It has all the red herrings and twists and turns of the traditional locked-room mystery (a favourite of mine) plus some gloriously bizarre characters including a failed magician, a couple of weird sister witches and a married couple of pagan history buffs keen to preserve every historical feature of the castle that Lord Black is all set to modernise. Even the ghost of Ursula’s father who only she can see, gets in on the act.
is not your typical mystery novel, but I found it engaging and hugely
entertaining. I look forward to reading more in this series.
Reviewer: Judith Cranswick
Victoria Dowd was born and raised in Yorkshire
and after studying at Cambridge, went on to be a successful criminal law
barrister for many years. Victoria’s
debut crime novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder (published by Joffe Books)
is the first part of a dark, humorous crime series that is a modern take on the
Golden Age of crime fiction and authors such Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and
Josephine Tey. She is an award-winning short story writer, winning the Gothic Fiction prize
for short fiction 2019 by Go Gothic. Victoria has had short stories published
in BTS Literary and Arts Annual, Gold Dust magazine and also by Stairwell books
in their literary and arts journal Dream Catcher. Her work has also been
selected for publication in an anthology entitled A Ghostly Challenge. She
speaks at various literary festivals, most recently in Bath, and at various
schools and book groups. Her historical fiction, The Painter of Siena, was
published in 2016.
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!’