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Tuesday 12 March 2024

‘A Body on the Doorstep’ by Marty Wingate

Published by Bookouture
8 January 2024.
ISBN: 978-1-80314966-0 (PB)

The story is set in 1921 when Mabel Canning has recently arrived in London from a village in rural Sussex. Mabel has just gained employment with the Useful Women Agency whose owner, Miss Lillian Kerr, sends out women to take on any respectable task that the women who employ them require and for which they are willing to pay. Mabel's first job is to help at the wake being held for Mr Guy Despard, at a house in Belgravia.

To her surprise, when she arrives at the house, she is set to making sandwiches by Mrs Rosalind Despard’s maid, but she gets on with it willingly, trying hard to keep the food away from the mischievous but lovable terrier, Gladys, who belongs to Rosalind’s brother. Soon Mabel realises that things are not exactly what she presumed. Rosalind is a sweet although emotionally fragile young widow who had been a music hall performer before her marriage and the house is not filled with well-trained servants because that is not how Rosalind wants to live. Most surprising of all is that Guy Despard has not just died. The wake is because he has just been declared dead after being inexplicably missing for seven years. Rosalind explains to Mabel that many of the police detectives that investigated Guy’s disappearance made it clear that they believed that she had killed her husband.

Her brother, Park Winstone, who had been a police officer at that time, had forcibly rejected the idea that Rosalind was involved in whatever had happened to Guy. Park has since left the police.

The guests who assemble at Rosalind’s house are an eclectic mixture of people, some are the men and women who are helping to run Guy’s still thriving business, others are ladies of leisure, and some are entertainers from Rosalind’s past, including successful comedian Cyril Godfrey. Just as a toast is proposed to Guy’s memory, the doorbell rings, Mabel goes to answer it and a man falls through the door. Chaos ensues but Mabel keeps her head and remembers her nursing experience. However, there is nothing she can do for the man who has died on the spot. In his hand he clutches an envelope addressed to Rosalind and inside it is a letter from Guy. Mabel does everything she can to support Rosalind through this fresh ordeal, as do Rosalind’s maid, Bridget, and her brother, Park.

Mabel has a small flat in New River House in Islington, which her father helped her to get because he is an old friend of the porter. She is grateful for the pleasant accommodation but very aware that if she does anything in the least risky or anything that an elderly man regards as inappropriate it may be reported back to her anxious father. Mabel makes friends with two women who live in New River House, Miss Portjoy and Miss Skeffington and, to her surprise, Park Winstone has just moved into a flat in the same building, along with his dog, Gladys.

The police are concentrating on trying to identify the dead man, but Mabel is convinced that the only way to solve the whole mystery is to find out what happened to Guy Despard seven years previously. In between her other duties for the Useful Women Agency and, aided by her three new friends, not to forget Gladys, she sets out to investigate, but the closer she gets to discovering the truth the more dangerous her quest becomes.

A Body on the Doorstep is the first book in the series that features Mabel Canning and her friends. It is a delightful historical cosy crime story with an interesting plot and a cast of engaging characters, which illustrates the struggles and grief of the British people three years after the end of the First World War. Mabel embodies the courage and determination of women who are struggling to gain the independent lifestyle that they are entitled to, despite the smothering care of their menfolk. A Body on the Doorstep is a very enjoyable read which I recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Marty Wingate is a Seattle-based author and speaker about gardens and travel. She is the author of The Garden Plot, first in the Potting Shed mystery series. There are now 7 books in the series. Marty’s garden articles appear in a variety of publications, including Fine Gardening, American Gardener, Country Gardens, and Gardening How-to. You can hear her on the podcast A Dry Rain, available free from iTunes. She leads garden tours to European and North American. The Bodies in the Library, published 9 October 2019 is the first in her new series.

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 8 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. interview

To read a review of Carol latest book click on the title
Death and the Dancing Snowman

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