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Friday 18 November 2022

‘Mystery at Southwood School’ by Clare Chase

Published by Bookouture,
10 November 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-80314-409-2 (PB)

We meet up with our intrepid investigator, Eve Mallow, who is actually an obituary writer, who in the process of learning about her dead subjects has turned into an amateur sleuth.  In the period between obituary writing, she works part time for Viv who runs Monty’s teashop in the village of Saxford St Peter in Suffolk where Eve has settled following her move from London, and a controlling ex-husband

Although pleased to have been asked to assist Viv in the catering for Founders Day at the prestigious Southwood School, Eve is becoming less enamoured as Viv who attended the school tells her how strict the rules were. Currently they are on their way to meet ‘the coven’ the name for the committee that run the school. If that doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies it does me.

As they near the entrance for the meeting several other join them, the headmaster of the school, Sabina Montague, mother of Viv’s late husband Oliver, and the mother-in-law from hell. Also, instantly Eve recognisees Natalie Somerson, the famous talk-show host who is there as a former student of the school and this year’s guest of honour.  

But it quickly becomes apparent that there are tensions between the staff over Natalie’s presence and when she gives her speech it clearly stirs up old resentments with several people present. She is also extremely rude to the current head girl. Why? Eve asks herself was Natalie invited?

When Eve spots Natalie talking to Robin, who is doing some gardening in the school grounds, and who regular readers of this series will know looks after most of the gardens in Saxby St Peter, she is instantly on alert. He and Eve are in a relationship but known only to three other people, the reason being that Robin’s past has to stay that way – in the past. Eve later learns that Natalie is certain she knows Robin from somewhere and she is sure it will come to her eventually.

When a body is found in the school Robin immediately comes under suspicion, particularly by the odious Inspector Palmer.  Luckily Detective Sergeant Greg Boles is on the case but can he and Eve find the killer before Palmer arrests Robin.

This is the ninth book in the series, and they get and better.  Intriguing, and cleverly plotted with lots of red herrings and twists along the way. I greatly enjoyed this entry in the series.  

A terrific read. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Lizzie Sirett

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.

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