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Thursday 27 June 2024

‘The Case of the Secretive Secretary’ by Cathy Ace

Published by Four Tails Publishing,
18 March 2024.
ISBN: 978-1-99055022-5 

The four women of the WISE Enquiry Agency are happily settled in the Welsh village of Anwen-by-Wye and their business is thriving, with each of them contributing their own expertise to their various investigations. They are very grateful to the Duke and Duchess of Chellingworth and to Althea, the Dowager Duchess, who have all been amazingly supportive. However, Mavis, who lives at the Dower House with Althea, often wishes that her elderly friend was not so determined to get actively involved with their investigations.

Mavis, the oldest of the WISE women, had been Head of Nursing at a home for retired servicemen before she became an investigator and the women’s latest case involves Frances Millington, a former colleague who had worked as a secretary at the serviceman’s home. Frances makes an appointment to consult the WISE women and when she meets them, she explains that she is now living at a small private hotel and does some secretarial work for the owner. She has been very happy living there, but several strange incidents have caused her concern. The owner has objected to her expression of worry and has threatened to dismiss her. Although Frances wants Mavis and her colleagues to help, she is very secretive about sharing her suspicions about the hotel staff and residents. Mavis decides to go to the hotel as a guest, but Frances warns her that she is unlikely to be accepted by the owner and, to Mavis’ dismay, it is decided that it is necessary for Althea to accompany her because her title will impress the owner and make him welcome them. Althea is delighted but Mavis is afraid that she is allowing her indomitable but frail friend to run into danger.

Back in Anwen-by-Wye, Annie, Christine and the rest of the WISE women are busy investigating two crimes that are minor in monetary value but are causing great distress to the victims. One is the warfare between the Duke and Duchess’ long-term cook and a new cook who has been employed to provide baked goods for the new cafe in the village. The question is whether one of the battling cooks is sabotaging the other or whether there is another player in the game? The duke is very fond of his food and he is extremely anxious to have this mystery solved before he loses his valued cook.

The second minor investigation is even more bizarre. Plastic ornaments are disappearing from outside the cottages of several villagers. None of the stolen items have any monetary value but they are of great sentimental value to the bereft owners. Annie is determined to help her neighbours and resorts to a high-tech solution for a distinctly low-tech crime.

When Mavis and Althea arrive at the hotel, they find that events have moved faster than they anticipated, and the game has grown a lot more serious. However, they continue with their investigation and Althea’s eccentric charm helps to win them some valuable allies. The two sleuths soon need all the help they can get when Althea takes one risk too many and finds herself in extreme danger.

The Case of the Secretive Secretary is the tenth novel in the series featuring the women of the WISE Enquiry Agency. It is an excellent addition to a delightful series that is filled with warm, lively and eccentric characters. All of the books in the series work well as stand-alone novels but the development of the characters and their relationships throughout the series is especially engaging. This is a book that explores and celebrates the whole community. In Anwen-by-Wye the inhabitants are united by shared history and customs but are also willing to accept progress and newcomers, and in the hotel that Mavis and Althea visit they help the permanent residents to form their own close-knit community. The characterisation is excellent and the four WISE women and their self-appointed assistant, the Dowager Duchess, are all distinct and likeable people, and so are the rest of the inhabitants of Anwen-by-Wye.

The Case of the Secretive Secretary is a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Cathy Ace was born and raised in Swansea, South Wales. With a successful career in marketing having given her the chance to write training courses and textbooks, Cathy has now finally turned her attention to her real passion: crime fiction. Her short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies. Two of her works, Dear George and Domestic Violence, have also been produced by Jarvis & Ayres Productions as ‘Afternoon Reading’ broadcasts for BBC Radio 4. Cathy now writes two series of traditional mysteries: The Cait Morgan Mysteries (TouchWood Editions) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (Severn House Publishers)

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

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