Written By Evelyn Hood — The Scottish village of Prior’s Ford in Dumfries and Galloway has been through quite a lot in recent years. Feuds, scandals, and poison pen letters, but now the angel of death is circling and his target’s exit into the hereafter will be something other than natural. Over the past four books Evelyn Hood, who wrote the earlier Prior’s Ford books under the name Eve Houston, has built up a detailed picture of life in the village. Taking us into people’s homes, reflecting the trials and tribulations of daily life, she added a sense of realism to her characters. And book five in the series is no different.
As the book opens, yet more newcomers are arriving in Prior’s Ford in the form of cookery writer Laura Hunter and her husband Allan, a retired chief superintendent with a force over the border in England.
Much of the book is taken up with the machinations of community life and the local gossip that’s currently being circulated. Retired schoolteacher Clarissa has a blossoming relationship with the much younger Glasgow artist, Alistair. Then there’s the continued tongue wagging about little Rowena Chloe. Is the local laird’s son Lewis really her father? And, the local am dram society is preparing its cast list for its latest production, The Importance of Being Earnest.
When the murder itself happens, more than half way into the proceedings, it’s safe to say that if you make the mistake of blinking you might just miss it, swept away as you are with the goings on in the village. Or, if you’re new to the series, being inducted into the ways of Prior’s Ford. Everything seems to be chugging along nicely.
Keith Pearce, director of the local amateur dramatic group seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a tad on the overbearing side perhaps, but has no real enemies. So when he’s found throttled with a purple feather boa, everyone’s mystified as to who had motive enough to kill him. Everyone in the group seems happy with the roles they’ve been allotted, and apart from a frosty scene at a welcome party for the Hunters, he doesn’t seem to have done anything to really upset anybody. Or has he? PC White is tasked with the investigation, which seems to disappear behind village life somewhat. How could any of these nice people ever think of wanting Keith dead? It must be someone from outside the village. Or maybe not.
I didn’t overly mind that the main focus in Mystery in Prior’s Ford is on the villagers themselves. In some ways it’s like a literary soap opera with several ‘Will they? Won’t they?’ scenarios dotted here and there. As a murder mystery, well, that element unfortunately does seem to fade a little into the background. Life carries on, but even as the reader, privy to more than the characters in the book, it’s hard to determine who might be the killer. The clues aren’t exactly plentiful. An enjoyable read but not enough mystery here, although fans of Agatha Raisin will certainly enjoy this series.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars