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Monday 14 February 2022

‘Bones in the Belfry’ by Suzette A Hill

Published by Constable,
1 August 2008,
ISBN 978-1-84529-582-0 (HB)

This is the second book set in the 1950’s in the Surrey village of Moleshill.  The Reverend Francis Oughterard is still jumpy following the untimely demise of his parishioner Elizabeth Fotherington, but matters have to some extent calmed down, the police like the Arabs having folded their tents and gone away. True, he seems to have acquired a dog and a cat, but they don’t pose too much of a problem for him.  But just when he thinks that he is safe and can get some peace, into his life comes one Maud Tubbly Pole and her dog Gunga Din. Maud Tubbly Pole is an author who having read about the murder in Moleshill is keen to put FO in her next book.

As if that were not enough for him to contend with, up pops Nicholas Ingaza, a character of shady disposition, who asks FO to look after some paintings which turn out to have been stolen. And so, FO finds himself up to his neck in it.  Every time he thinks that he has it sorted, it leaps up and bites him on the bum.

The story is told from the points of view of the supercilious Maurice the cat, the irrepressible dog Bouncer, and the Reverend himself.  As well as some well-beloved characters, such as Horace Clinker, the bishop, introduced in this tale is FO’s sister Primrose, whose two chinchillas don’t take to Bouncer.

There was a feel of Wodehouse about this book, as matters spiral out of FO’s control, and he becomes entangled in intrigue and imposters.  The prose is delicious, and I enjoyed every word of it. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes

Suzette A. Hill was born in Eastbourne, Sussex, in 1941; but has lived in many locations - the Midlands, Nottingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Berkshire - and finally in retirement in Ledbury, Herefordshire. Although being an English graduate of two universities and having taught ‘Eng. Lit.’ all her professional life, she never contemplated doing any creative writing herself. It was only when she was sixty-four and well retired, that out of idle curiosity she thought she might try her hand at a short story - just to see what writing fiction felt like. And to her ongoing surprise A Load of Old Bones plus its four sequels was the result. A Little Murder (pub. Allison & Busby) is the first in a new series featuring Rosie Gilchrist and followed by The Venetian Venture & A Southwold Mystery. The Primrose Pursuit (2016), the first book to feature Primrose Oughterard, is a link to the original ‘Bones’ series.

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