Thea Osborne, 42, recently widowed, with one daughter and one dog. Thea is starting a career as a house-sitter and her first assignment is in the village of Duntisbourne Abbots, looking after two additional dogs, a large number of sheep and a water-lily. On her first day, she meets Joel Jennison, a local farmer – a pleasant enough sort of chap.
The next night, she is woken by a nearby scream, but thinks nothing of it. But when out walking the dogs the next day, she finds Joel’s body face down in some water. With nothing better to do, Thea decides to look into the death. But when she soon discovers that Joel’s brother was killed in the same way and finds herself shut out by the village, it seems that the truth may be harder to find than she expected.
So why this one for the 500th review? Well it seemed to be the ideal example of what this blog is (sometimes) about. A modern book, clearly marketed as a mystery – but does it harken to the classic era of detective fiction in its plotting, or does it pull out the murderer at random at the end of the book?
Of course, being a modern book, plot is never enough. Character and location are much more important than they ever were in the classic era and in a serious book like this, good characters are necessary – this certainly doesn’t rank as a typical cozy book, at least not in the sense that I define it. There isn’t a cat or a weird shop in sight and everything is played pretty seriously.
Thea is an interesting character – troubled, rather than tormented, by her past and somewhat looking for her place in the world. The entire book focusses on her experiences and this partly lets it down as a mystery. While it is very well-written, the closed-offness of the village means that she meets other people rarely, so it’s hard to get a handle on the suspects. It took me a little while, as I was reading the book in relatively short bursts, to remember who was who. And while the book slowly tightened its grip on me as it went on, the ending, revealing what is going on, has a mass of information that mostly came out of nowhere.
So, overall? It’s a good read, especially as a character piece, and a decent modern mystery, good enough that I’ll be back for more. But it’s not a classic mystery, I’m afraid. Not this time. The Search goes on…