Californian Ellie Kent, the vicar’s new wife, is just breaking in her tweeds when she finds an unidentified body in Boatwright’s (Collateral Damage, 2012) charming mystery.
English literature professor Ellie is a skeptical outsider in the English town of Little Beecham in the Cotswolds. She quickly learns that her challenges not only include baking for the upcoming Christmas coffee event, but also facing comparisons with the vicar’s widely loved first wife. However, the author sets up even greater obstacles to Ellie’s happiness in this engaging, slyly humorous novel. Ellie sees a mysterious stranger in the woods and later finds the same man’s body in the churchyard on All Saints’ Day. A murder inquiry quickly focuses on the innocent Ellie, who desperately begins her own investigation. There’s no shortage of secrets to unravel: who was the victim, and why did he have no identification on his body? Why does a handsome man, Michael-John Parker, keep visiting the abandoned manor house? Priscilla Worthy (who’s first described as looking “like a fluffy bird with her cap of white hair, bright eyes, and layers of grey sweaters”) claims that she was in the woods gathering mushrooms; if that’s true, then why does she seem so flustered? Ellie’s skills at textual analysis, as well as her knowledge of the Italian language, help her as she works to clear her name. Anglophiles, especially, will adore this book’s many pleasures, which include winning character descriptions, a sexy vicar, plenty of tea, and a portrait of the lack of privacy in a small English town: “ ‘All the world’s a stage,’ she thought, was clearly written by someone who lived in an English village.” Although the pacing flags a bit in the middle, some loose ends are never tied up, and Ellie’s secretiveness with both her husband and the police may be frustrating, her literate good company more than compensates.
A well-crafted outsider’s view of Cotswolds village life that will appeal to mystery buffs.