Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, historical setting, story
Cons: Nothing worth mentioning
The Bottom Line:
Small English village
Holding some murder motives
War and Murder
As a traditional/cozy mystery fan, there are so many sub-genres to pick from that it can be overwhelming at times. One I generally don’t read is the English village myster. For some reason, that doesn’t usually grab my attention, which might help explain why I have read so few Agatha Christie books. But when Jessica Ellicott (also known as Jessie Crockett and Jessica Estevao) released Murder in an English Village, I immediately planned to give it a try since I’ve enjoyed her other books.
This book transports us to 1920 and the small English village of Walmsley Parva. Lifelong resident Edwina Davenport is having a hard time making ends meet, so she places an advertisement for a boarder. The last person she expects to answer is her old boarding school friend Beryl Helliwell. Beryl is an American famous for her adventures all over the globe. But Beryl is at loose ends and looking for a little quiet and stability.
On her first afternoon in the village, Beryl drops some hints to the local gossip that the two are secretly working for His Majesty, hoping to help Edwina save face concerning her finances. Instead, someone tries to strangle Edwina that night. Obviously, someone has a secret to hide. The only thing Edwina can think of is the disappearance of a young woman who was in the area working on the local farm during the recently ended Great War. Edwina always felt that this disappearance didn’t get the attention it truly deserved, so the two friends begin to hunt for someone who might know what really happened. What will they uncover?
There really is much to praise in this book. Let’s start with the vastly mismatched main characters. Edwin and Beryl are a ton of fun together. Edwina is from a proper British family that has fallen on hard times, so she is used to having servants and the class system that goes with them. Beryl is the complete opposite, and some of their interactions are funny as a result. Yet, no matter how different they are, we still get a good sense of their friendship.
Through the rest of the characters, we get a real sense of what the War to End All Wars really did to the people who stayed home. In fact, the events of World War I, which ended just a couple of years before this book is set, drive much of the plot. This backstory also really helps flesh out the suspects and the setting.
The plot is strong as well. I’m only teasing the very beginning, but as events proceed and layers are unpeeled, we find more secrets than Edwina would have guessed her neighbors are hiding. I did figure out the solution about the same time that Edwina and Beryl did, but even then, there was another couple twists I didn’t see coming.
The book is told third person from both Edwina and Beryl’s points of view, with a few passages from others slipped in. This is never confusing since we always get a clear breaking point when the point of view is changing and really strengthens the story.
Now that I’ve found a home for myself in Walmsley Parva, I hope to be back to visit my new friends Edwina and Beryl again soon. Murder in an English Village is a fun series debut that will leave you anxious for a return trip back in time.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.