The future of the Seaview Hotel in Scarborough is in the balance. Helen Dexter had run it for years with her husband Tom, but after he lost his fight with cancer, she is not convinced that she wants to carry on with it alone. It takes some aggressive attempts to buy the hotel from her, along with a fortuitous booking from twelve Elvis impersonators – Twelvis – to convince her that her future lies at the Seaview. Once that decision is made – that’s when the trouble really begins.
Someone is conducting a smear campaign against the hotel, trying to shut it down before it has barely reopened, and is willing to go to extreme lengths to succeed. The attempts to buy the hotel step up in their intensity – oh, and Twelvis is now one member short, as the most unpleasant of the Elvises, one with a history in Scarborough, is found strangled in his costume, with his blue suede shoes stolen…
This is Glenda Young’s first mystery novel, the first in a Seaview Hotel series. She has written five historical novels which look to be in the Catherine Cookson vein, so needless to say, I haven’t come across her work before. I’m always tempted to give a new crime fiction author a go, so when I saw this on Netgalley, I thought it sounded intriguing.
And it is intriguing, but I’m also somewhat torn about the book.
First of all, I loved the setting and the characters. Helen, who is the focus and the heart of the book, is a fully rounded character who you easily empathise with. I’ve never lost a partner – she’s not very good at hiding, I always find her – but I was convinced by what she was going through. Her support – both in the hotel and in her circle of friends – is also a nice mix if perhaps a little too big. The plot is promising too, with the various threats against the hotel and to Helen building up nicely. The ups and downs in Helen’s life, as she copes with grief, her friends’ problems and a possible new man in her life (thankfully not the police officer in charge of the case) make for an absorbing narrative – I was carrying around my kindle, reading chunks of the book whenever I had the chance, and I would happily read more of the series to see what happens to Helen, the hotel and the various cast members.
I’m also tempted to visit Scarborough, as the author clearly loves the town. It’s similar to how Julie Wassmer paints Whitstable in the Whitstable Pearl mysteries, and it certainly works well as an advert for the Scarborough Tourist Board (unlike, say, Stuart MacBride and Aberdeen…)
However hard-core puzzle mystery fans may be disappointed, as catching the killer resembles those final chapters of the oft-derided US cosy mysteries, namely heroine (or possibly hero, but it’s usually heroine) goes for a cup of coffee with the killer and the killer accidentally drops the bloody murder weapon from their pocket, at which point the heroine works out with a stunning leap of logic who the killer is, having had no idea when they went round for their coffee.
To be fair, Helen has narrowed down the suspects and has worked out the (rather odd) motive for the crime before the killer leaves some incriminating evidence lying around, evidence which, it should be said, seems to be in the killer’s possession purely to incriminate them. The killer is, I think, well hidden, but again, the seasoned mystery reader might well spot them – I did, but there weren’t that many viable suspects. I think also I would have liked some of the sub-mysteries to have been a little more linked, as there does seem to be a lot of coincidence that all of these things are happening at the same time.
All in all, though, I enjoyed this book a lot. I really like the characters, I like the idea of “Twelvis” and the book does well setting the scene for future outings for Helen and her coterie. I’ll definitely be giving book two a go.
Murder At The Seaview Hotel is out on Thursday 5th August in hardback and ebook from Headline.