A cozy mystery with a bit of grit…
Jane Adams has written a thoroughly engaging English countryside mystery featuring actress Rina Martin, who is now semi-retired and the “proprietress” of a Victorian era boarding house, Peverill Lodge. At first, the case appears pretty simple – so simple that there’s not really a case at all: the aging but still mentally sharp painter, Jean Hammond, has been found dead in her garden. She was known to have a dicey heart, so at first everyone assumes that she had a heart attack. But discrepancies keep popping up, both small (why was she sitting on the ground when it was so hard for her to get up) and large (two valuable paintings of Jean’s are missing from the walls of her house, The Willows). Eventually enough of these odd pieces fall into place, and it seems there may be a serial killer on the loose.
Rina, who knows practically everyone in town, is asked by Jean’s grandson to investigate. And together with her found family of friends and lodgers, and local policeman, Mac McGregor, she does – and figures out whodunnit in time to prevent even more deaths. Murder at the Willows is a bit unusual in that readers are let in on who is responsible for the killings well before the end of the book, but will still keep reading to find out the details about how and why. And although it has many of the trappings of a cozy mystery, there is also an edge of grittiness that keeps Murder in the Willows from being just cotton-candy.
I had not read any of the previous Rina Martin books, but didn’t find this to be too much of an issue. The author does a good job of filling in the necessary background, and although it took me a little while to figure out the characters and their various relationships, I was still able to enjoy the book without ever feeling lost. My thanks go to the publishers, Joffe Books, and to NetGalley for the review copy, and I’m now looking forward to the next book in the series. And finally, please keep in mind that I don’t give many five-star reviews, so for me, this four-star review is a solid recommendation to read this book.