Poison At The Village Show (2022) by Catherine Coles

One day, Martha Miller’s husband left for work and never returned. The village gossips have persisted in the rumours that it was her fault, some even suggesting that he’s buried in the vegetable garden. Determined to put such tattling to rest, Martha has helped organise the village show, providing copious amounts of her renowned plum gin to assist in her endeavours. Unfortunately, when the gin is passed around, Alice Warren, the chairwoman of the show, collapses, poisoned from the gin in her glass.

Suspicion, for no particularly good reason, falls on Martha, so determined to prove her innocence, she sets out to find the real murderer. But when a second victim falls prey to more poisoned gin, it seems not even the new vicar can help her…

This is billed as a “Cosy Mystery” – the first in a series, although not the first from the author – and it’s a perfectly fine example of the subgenre. Fans of the subgenre will find plenty to like here, with an interesting situation for the sleuth. It’s set in post-war England, although, bar some references to the war and rationing, it could be set at any time, and I struggled to get a sense of the time period.

Fans of well-clued mysteries, though, might find this a struggle, not least to get over the initial murder. It takes forever to even ask how the victim was given the single poisoned glass from a tray of several, and even when it’s brought up, it never seems to worry anyone until the finale. And yes, it does sound a lot like ***** *** ******* by ****** ********, doesn’t it, and unfortunately there isn’t really anything new done with the idea. I had a more interesting villain in mind that turned out to be the case, as I was hoping the author was going to stray a little from the constraints of the format, but alas no.

Perhaps this was the wrong choice for me – cosy mysteries rarely include mysteries of the right depth for me, but they have, at times, entertained me with easy reads – Murder At The Seaview Hotel springs to mind. As I said, this is perfectly fine, but not really my cup of tea.

Poison At The Village Show is available on ebook from 17 March and in a very expensive paperback, apparently, on the same day.

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