A Lively Form Of Death by Kay Mitchell

Who’d be a gossip in a murder mystery novel? The perennial midway-through-the-plot victim, murdered after insinuating that they “know something” without having the grace to tell the detective what they know, it’s a fairly thankless life. In Little Henge, near Malminster, things are a little different as here, the village gossip has been bumped off at the start of the book – and it seems that it wasn’t her fault. All she did was “borrow” a bottle of milk from the fridge of the woman that she cleans for – how was she to know that it was laced with cyanide?

Enter Chief Inspector Morrissey and his team. It seems that the intended victim has a LOT of secrets of her own – as do a lot of other people in the village. As more people start to die, can Morrissey sort things out – despite his sense that, in the village, there was “something else, infinitely evil”?

No, it’s not a psychic detective – but there will be a post coming soon on that – but the first of five books by Kay Mitchell featuring Chief Inspector Morrissey and his happy band of police officers. Now if only I could have got that theremin music out of my head while reading it…

I can’t seem to find much out about Kay Mitchell – this was one of five novels with another series of four written under the pseudonym Sarah Lacey – and nothing apparently since 1997. If anyone has any more information, do pass it on, as I rather enjoyed this one.

It’s another Kindle bargain – only 77p when I got it – and basically it reads like a decent episode of Midsomer Murders aka Inspector Barnaby – hence the theremin. Basically the detective is a good sort with a happy family and he is surrounded by competent-but-not-clever assistants who will stand back to let him work things out, and at the end of the day, it’s probably best not to think too hard about the minutiae of the plot. There is a bit of a subplot involving his main sidekick – Barrett – trying to sleep with another colleague’s wife, but it’s a fairly harmless distraction from the main plot.

As for the main plot, it’s nicely done while being nothing outstanding – but who says that every book has to be outstanding? I’ve read a number of police procedurals that tried to be something more and ending up boring the pants off me – this book does what it says on the tin – a decent detective story that keeps moving and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Any flaws that you could find with the plotting probably comes from the restrictions in the genre – once the murderer has committed suicide – yeah, right – halfway through the book and the case is closed, the second “unrelated” case does seem to come out of nowhere and it would seem to be a massive coincidence that ties everything together – and truth be told, once the second part kicks in, Morrissey is annoying slow over certain aspects. But it does give the reader a chance to gloat at the detective while, possibly, still not spotting the murderer.

The other gripe is that the sexual politics could have been done in a more subtle way. I can’t go into the central character without spoiling stuff, but the owner of the gay bar that is visited does seem to be rather… off. And, trying to be vague here, once you see where things are going, the choice of murderer, who it must be said stood out to me like a sore thumb early in the book, is both unfortunate and inevitable.

But, hand on heart, I rather enjoyed this waste of 77p. From the blurbs, it seems that series might get darker as it goes on, but I found this an enjoyable distraction. Don’t expect anything revolutionary, but recommended.


  1. Oh, one thing I forgot to say – the scanning of the original text to Kindle is a bit annoying – mostly the consistent replacement of I with 1 and rn with m (and vice versa). It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but it hasn’t been proof-read at all.


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