I was very kindly provided with an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a review, which follows.
A laugh-out-loud murder mystery? You bet! Picture this: Miss Marple with the Keystone Kops as staged by Mel Brooks with a hint of Beatrix Potter.
That would be this story, featuring Miss Seeton, respectable spinster art teacher. She is having a lovely evening. After hearing “Carmen” at Covent Garden. Bizet’s beguiling tunes are running through Miss Seeton’s head even as she bewails Don José’s unseemly and “unnecessary” stabbing of Carmen. Miss Seeton is looking forward to a nice stay in the country at her newly inherited cottage, “Sweetbriars.”
Walking down an alley on her way home, she is displeased to encounter a young couple, the girl exclaiming in French, and the boy striking the girl. This is too much for Miss Seeton, who prods the ungentlemanly boy in the back. From there, the story is a lively dash for Miss Seeton, her “battling brolly” and her ever-useful sketchpad.
Our story is set in English country settlement of Plummergan, and stocked with a cast of memorable characters. Of course there is the vicar, Arthur Treeves who Does His Best, and his sister Molly who runs him; Sir George, Lady Colvedon, and their son Nigel; Miss Nuttel and Mrs. Blaine, dedicated to providing the latest, though perhaps not the most accurate, news to the village; Mrs. Venning, successful author of children’s stories featuring Jack the Rabbit, and her daughter Angela; Mrs. Bloomer, who “does” for Miss Seeton; and of course the Scotland yard men: Superintendent Delphick (The Oracle), whose admiration of Miss Seeton’s abilities grows throughout the book, and of course his stalwart sergeant, Bob Ranger.
In other words, a fairly typical English village murder mystery–but with an important difference. The author is a gifted storyteller. I started reading, and soon found myself chuckling at the literate, spot-on descriptions of these characters and their foibles. Miss Seeton sails serenely on, encountering numerous events that would unsettle most people, meeting each obstacle with her unique but effective resources.