Things are a little slow for Pearl Nolan’s Whitstable detective agency. Apart from her mother’s missing cat, her only case is the disappearance of some expensive lingerie from a washing line. She is more than happy to allow herself to be distracted by the opening of a new dance school in the town, run by celebrity tango champions Tanya and Tony Bullard, especially as it gives her chance to spend more time with DCI Mike McGuire.
Needless to say, things don’t go particularly smoothly, especially when one dancer is found with a metal stiletto heel embedded in their face. With his boss looking for an excuse to transfer him elsewhere, McGuire is desperate to solve the case, and as such, Pearl is determined to find the murderer. But the murderer isn’t finished just yet…
This is the eighth Whitstable Pearl mystery from Julie Wassmer. Perfect cosy – well, apart from a stiletto to the face – fare which has now been inspired a TV series starring Kerry Godliman, Howard Charles and Frances Barber. No idea what the series is like, as it’s consigned to Acorn TV, which I have no idea how to access, but the core cast is excellent, at least, so I imagine it’s very watchable. Anyone out there actually seen it? Any thoughts?
Anyway, back to this book, and it’s pleasing to see there is some development of the Pearl-McGuire relationship, which has been on a bit of a loop in recent books – some obstacle arises, usually due to his unseen boss, Pearl solves a case and the obstacle vanishes. I may be misremembering but that feels like a very familiar pattern for the series. But as I said, this is a cosy read, really, so that’s not really a problem. I’d rather see that than McGuire suddenly develop an addiction to crack, for example.
So there are two cases here, although the missing lingerie is just a fun distraction. It also has a wonderful resolution that I dare anyone not to read without a smile on their face. But the main case is, obviously, much more developed.
It’s a decent plot with a number of suspects, all of whom seem to have connections to uncover as the plot develops. The choice of killer makes perfect sense and I think everything is there to help the reader work out who it is. I would point out though, that through the use of one particular idea, the killer stood out for me from… well, from when the victim is found. Even though the trope is used in a “maybe it was” sense, all it does is make the reader look at the murderer more carefully and soon convince themselves they are right. I know certain tropes recur again and again in murder mysteries, but this one doesn’t really have any variety to it, so authors should think carefully before using it.
But as I say, this is a satisfying light read, with a strong, likeable, central character. I think this is a strong entry in the series and definitely, if it sounds like your thing, worth a look.
Strictly Murder was released in paperback and ebook on 10th June. Many thanks to Julie Wassmer for the review copy.