Murder In Steeple Martin by Leslie Cookman

New Author August continues with another Kindle bargain, the first in a series of (to date) nine mysteries featuring Libby Serjeant, a middle-aged retired actress. In this book, Libby is directing a play written by a local friend about an incident in his family’s past – an incident involving a death and a disappearance. You can probably sketch in what happens next – needless to say, someone apparently doesn’t want the past revisited. Accidents begin to happen in the theatre and murder isn’t very far behind…

It’s been about three days since I finished this one, but it seems a lot longer as I’ve been turning over in my mind what to say about it. You know you’re putting off writing a review when dismantling an upright piano seems a better idea than committing your thoughts to the internet – oh, and if that thought ever occurs to you, don’t do it. Dismantling a piano is much harder than you might think…

And I’m prevaricating again. Right, let’s get my thoughts in order.

One of the reasons that I’m prevaricating is that recently I was contacted concerning a somewhat negative review that I’d written with the message that the author was rather upset about my comments – which, to be fair, I thought were more considered that some of my earliest negative reviews. Writing a book (and getting it published) is an achievement that I have the utmost respect for. Even if a book doesn’t click with me, I’m sure it does with many readers.

Take this one, for example. It’s made it to the ninth in the series, so it must have many, many ardent fans. I am curious though – how many of them were hooked from the first book? Because while I can see a lot of potential in this series, this book didn’t reel me in.

A warning first of all – the Kindle edition has a list of important people in Libby’s life at the front of the book. Not, as I mistakenly thought, important people in this book. Hence when I noticed this, I realised that I could cross about 80% of the suspects off and, in fact, everyone not on this list but in this book ends up either dead or murderer (or both). That was a bit annoying.

There’s a genuine attempt to do something clever here – Libby is a fairly reluctant sleuth and for once in an amateur detective story, the police are perfectly competent – we just don’t see very much of them. But there really isn’t enough of a mystery to fill a book, either in the past or in the present. When Libby finally sits down and thinks about it properly, it doesn’t take vast leaps of logic for her to spot the murderer. There are one or two other problems that I had with the plot, but I can’t go into those as they definitely count as spoilers.

The characters are perfectly pleasant (although points off for one of them being a bit psychic and more points off for the number of times someone says “If this was a detective novel…”) and I’m not ruling out revisiting the series, now that the introductions are out of the way. But to be honest, I found this book disappointing – here’s hoping a bit more happens in the next one.


  1. You shouldn’t have to apologise for negative reviews. Anyone who reads crime fiction knows that there are a lot of disappointing books published, year in and year out. Indeed, the exceptional books are precisely that — exceptions. In my opinion there isn’t half enough critical discrimination shown by review bloggers: quite frankly, reviews/reviewers who always “try to find something positive to say about every book because someone out there is sure to like it even if I didn’t” aren’t much use in helping me choose how to spend my limited funds on a burgeoning genre selection.
    Authors used to accept that part of the privilege of being an author was learning to accept bad reviews uncomplainingly. The author that got upset by your review needs to toughen up a bit or go do something else. I’d LOVE to get some bad reviews — because it would mean that I’d been published in the first place!


    • One of the problems I found with writing this review was that I genuinely had trouble putting my finger on what I thought was wrong with the book – I knew there was something – indeed, more than one something – but I am not going to write a review of the “this sucks!” type without backing up why I thought that. I always strive to back up any comments I make, especially negative ones. And I’m not going to mince my words if I feel that something needs saying. That’s the pitfall of my “review everything” policy…


Leave a Reply to Curious Presbyterian Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.