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Friday 17 June 2022

‘Mystery at Magpie Lodge’ by Clare Chase

Published by Bookouture,
4 January 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-80019-969-9 (PB)

Eve Mallow loves her chosen profession is as an obituary writer but, since she moved to the country village of Saxford St. Peter, the subject of the obituary is often also the victim of murder. Eve has learned to combine the information she gathers for the obituary with discovering facts that could prove relevant to solving the crime. Eve moved to Saxford St. Peter from London after her arrogant and domineering husband left her. She is now divorced and in a happy but secret relationship with local gardener, Robin. The secrecy is because Robin was once a police officer whose honesty had led to him making deadly enemies both amongst criminals and corrupt police officers, which means his life could be in danger if they located him. The local detective inspector is lazy, blinkered and determined not to offend anybody who is wealthy or influential. However, Robin has an ally in the local police force, who keeps Robin informed about any clues the police unearth, and Robin passes this information on to Eve. As well as her obituary work, Eve has a second job working in the local cafe for her friend, Viv, a superb baker but a very disorganised person; Eve is very efficient and controlled and has reorganised the cafe. Viv also likes to help Eve when she is investigating a murder.

The story opens at an open afternoon at the Dower House of Fairview Hall, a charity event in aid of a local nature reserve. Although it appears to be a generous gesture, Eve and many of her fellow villagers know it is to boost the social aspirations of the Dower House’s owners, Selina and Roger Fulton, who are all about appearances rather than feeling any real interest in their community. Eve does not like Selina and Roger, nor is she attracted to their daughter, Coco, a young woman in her late twenties who still behaves like a spoiled teenager. The only person that Eve feels drawn to is Roger’s younger brother, Emory, the black sheep of the Fulton family. Twenty years ago Emory had been a bestselling author of a series of books about haunted venues in the U.K. He had been a popular television personality until the lavish lifestyle had gone to his head and he had gone bankrupt. Now he is putting his life together and is planning to lead ghost walks and returning to his work as a medium, ‘making contact with the other side.’ Eve does not believe in ghosts but she finds Emory an engaging person who appears to be more caring than the rest of his family. It is evident that he is on bad terms with his brother and sister-in-law, who feel his irreverent attitude and less than respectable past diminishes their standing in the community, also he knows some damaging information about Selina. Their antipathy is made obvious when Eve realises that instead of allowing Emory to stay at the spacious and luxurious Dower House, he has been put up in the decrepit Magpie Lodge, which has neither electricity nor indoor plumbing.

Eve’s admiration for Emory as a storyteller is aroused when she goes on the first of his village ghost walks, and he proves to be very generous, giving her a percentage of his earnings for the children’s charity she supports. Although Emory’s relationships are complicated, both with his family and their neighbours who have bought the Fulton’s ancestral home, Eve still feels that he is a kind and caring man. One evening, while the local woman who used to care for him as a child is out, along with her lodger, Emory is given permission to use her bath. When the lady returns home, she discovers dead him in the bath. As well as writing Emory’s obituary, Eve is determined to investigate who was responsible for his death. It soon becomes obvious that a ruthless killer is still at large and discovering Emory’s murderer is an increasingly hazardous task, which places Eve’s own life at risk.

Mystery at Magpie Lodge is the seventh book in the series featuring Eve Mallow. It is a delightful cosy crime mystery, with an interesting plot, set in delightful countryside. Eve is an engaging protagonist, especially in her determination to discover the truth about the person she is investigating, both their life and death; and her beloved dachshund, Gus, is a delightful little dog. Although her fellow villagers are far from perfect, and a few are downright irritating, together they form a warm, likeable, nurturing community. Mystery at Magpie Lodge is a very enjoyable read which I recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Clare Chase writes fast-paced romantic mysteries, using London and Cambridge as settings. Her influences include JD Robb, Janet Evanovich, Mary Stewart and Sue Grafton. Brought up in the Midlands, she went on to read English at London University, then worked in book and author promotion in venues as diverse as schools, pubs and prisons. More recently she’s exercised her creative writing muscles in the world of PR and worked for the University of Cambridge. Her current day job is at the Royal Society of Chemistry. Her writing is inspired by what makes people tick, and how strong emotions can occasionally turn everyday incidents into the stuff of crime novels. It would be impossible not to mix these topics with romance and relationships; they’re central to life and drive all forms of drama. When she’s not reading or writing, Clare enjoys drawing, cooking and trips to the Lake District. Closer to home she loves wandering round the pubs, restaurants and galleries of Cambridge where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.

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 6 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
The Curse of the Concrete Griffin
click on the title

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