Published by Allison & Busby,
21 July 2022.
ISBN: 978-0-7490-2859-6 (HB)
Who would have known that one of the most picturesque areas of England conceals such a dark heart? If the image Rebecca Tope presents is to be believed, the Cotswolds are a minefield of hidden secrets and sinister doings.
And house-sitter Thea Slocombe seems to find them wherever she goes. Last time I encountered Thea, she was still called Osborne, before she tied the knot with her alternative funeral director partner Drew. Now she is well and truly part of the family, to the extent that her stepdaughter Stephanie is determined to follow in her crime-solving footsteps and plays an active role in Thea’s latest exploit.
It all begins quietly enough, when Thea takes on a house-sitting job in the village of Oddington for camera enthusiast Umberto Kingly, which includes looking after his valuable dogs – but when a young woman is killed in a hit-and-run right outside the house, and she is the only witness, things take a turn for the mysterious. The victim is Umberto’s niece, and Thea soon becomes embroiled in the feuds and scandals which have torn his challenging family apart.
Rebecca Tope has a sure hand with characters, especially unpleasant ones – and no one in the extended Kingly family is especially pleasant. Even Umberto’s dogs have distinct personalities, and not always congenial ones, as Thea’s spaniel Hepzibah finds out to her cost. The occasional appearances of Drew and Stephanie almost qualify as light relief in the midst of the acid tongues and backbiting Thea encounters as she tries to help out her police chums.
The traditional Miss Marple-style image of the Cotswold village is given a different spin too; picturesque Oddington may be, but there’s something almost malevolent about the deserted church and the almost abandoned streets; the beautiful gold stone houses are mostly rarely visited second homes, and in the main are locked up tighter than a prison.
Was the hit-and-run really an accident, as everyone would like to believe, at least at first? Or are the undercurrents Thea detects only symptoms of something deeper than the jealousies and conflicts that beset most large families? And who will arrive at the truth first? Will the police get to the bottom of things before Thea unravels the family’s secrets?
Rebecca Tope’s many fans
won’t be disappointed, and she may even acquire a few more.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick
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
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.