Murder At The Old Vicarage by Jill McGown

Murder At The Old VicarageIt’s Christmas! Hurrah! Well, not so much if you’re a vicar who’s doubting his calling – due, in part, to not believing in God. And also fancying the woman down the road a bit too much. But as George Wheeler writes his Christmas message, a shadow is about to descend on the house in the form of his son-in-law. George’s daughter has recently separated from this deeply unpleasant individual and both George and his wife are concerned that she is going to forgive his violence again. But somebody puts a stop to that, with the aid of a poker about the head…

Detective Inspector Lloyd, no forename (hey, that sounds familiar!) and Detective Sergeant Judy Hill are trying to work out their own relationship, or lack thereof, so a nice juicy murder case in a snowbound village would seem to be a perfect distraction. But with a dearth of suspects – four, at a stretch, unless a passing tramp happened along – all of whom seem to have alibis, can they find a murderer before they have to confront their feelings for each other?

Thanks to Bello Books for the review copy – the entire Lloyd and Hill series has been reissued by them, but this one has a lovely Christmassy cover. And it’s the third of my last four reviews to feature bucket-loads of snow! How jolly…

I wonder – is there a mystery novel set at Christmas that actually gives the reader a warm Christmassy feeling? Because that’s the only real niggle that I have with this one. Yes, it’s set at Christmas, and we’ve got snow and a vicar, but it doesn’t really feel that Christmassy. Well, apart from the constantly arguing family, of course…

But I digress because that’s the only niggle that I had with it. In many ways, this combines the best of all worlds. It’s a police procedural, with interesting characters and – most notably – a proper mystery plot. And it’s a rather clever one at that. Being able to successfully manage a whodunit with only four suspects takes a clever plotter and Jill McGown was certainly that. This is an impressive piece of work all round. Lloyd and Hill’s relationship is believable – although he gets a bit shouty at times – and doesn’t detract from the main narrative at all. The central characters are fully rounded humans, complete with failings, and yet the narrative never gets bogged down with this aspect.

I read one or two of the books from this series a long time ago and remember being impressed with the author’s ability to present a well-constructed whodunit in the modern style and I’m very pleased to say that the memory didn’t cheat on this occasion. A great read with a rewarding puzzle, needless to say, this is Highly Recommended. And there will be more from Lloyd and Hill soon on the blog.


  1. Thanks for the review, and it’s encouraging to hear that there are modern police procedurals that come together with a proper mystery plot. I’ve just finished another entry to Ann Cleeve’s Inspector Ramsay series, and while I definitely enjoyed reading about Ramsay and following him around, I would have liked a stronger sense of puzzle to the story.

    Regarding Jill McGown – which were the other two titles you’ve read? Would you recommend this particular title as a starting point?


    • It was so long ago, I honestly have no idea which ones – sorry. This is book two – see Sergio’s comment for a link to a review of Book One, A Perfect Match, but it didn’t feel like I’d missed anything…


  2. I have read more Christmas mysteries in the last couple of years, and I haven’t run into any that have real Christmassy feel. I enjoy them still though.

    I read this book recently — a re-read really — and enjoyed it a lot. I even located and purchased a hardback edition from when it was first published because it had such a great cover, which I hope to remember to feature on my blog soon. This is a very nice cover too.

    The only other one by McGown that I read recently was Plots and Errors, and I loved that one.


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