Written by TE Kinsey — British writer TE Kinsey’s cosy mysteries were originally self-published novels, but have recently been picked up by Thomas & Mercer. A Quiet Life in the Country is the first book in the series while the second, In the Market for Murder, is due for release in December.
It’s 1908, Lady Emily Hardcastle and her maid Florence ‘Flo’ Armstrong have just arrived in the Gloucestershire village of Littleton Cotterell, where they are to take up residence. They’ve scarcely settled in before they find themselves the latest objects of curiosity as some of the key inhabitants come to look at the their new neighbours. These ladies are anything but the stereotypical servant and mistress that they appear to be in public. In private, they dine together and discuss things like a pair of old friends, which raises the eyebrows of the hired help, and there’s nothing they enjoy more than a little amateur sleuthing… albeit with Flo doing much of the leg work and Emily directing proceedings.
On their first perambulation around their new surroundings they come across a corpse. It looks like the young man hanging from a tree in the local woods has taken his own life, but something doesn’t look right. It all feels staged and these two ladies know a murder victim when they find one. Within a few hours, the local constabulary have arrested their man. It’s someone the victim, Frank Pickering, was seen arguing with prior to his death. Emily and Flo remain unconvinced, and begin their own investigation. Could a dispute about the village cricket team or the suspect’s flirtatious fiancée hold the key?
Before they make any headway, Lady Emily finds herself in receipt of various social invitations, one of which is to the engagement party for Camilla Farley-Stroud, daughter of Emily’s old family friends, Sir Hector and Lady Gertrude ‘Gertie’, and her fiancé, Teddy Seddon. However, Emily’s regular visits to the Farley-Stroud’s give her and Flo the opportunity to do a little sleuthing above and below stairs. Emily is also commissioned by Gertie to make some discrete inquiries into the disappearance of a valuable jewel that’s gone missing from her bedroom. With a house full of guests, the duo certainly have plenty to deal with.
The night of the party arrives and they’re still no closer to solving either case. Does the discovery of a second body on the library floor and a missing instrument case hold the key? Lady Emily and Flo team up with Inspector Sutherland, the detective sent to investigate. Cue plenty of sandwiches, coffee and brainstorming with Emily’s newly acquired blackboard for recording salient facts. In the end though, it’s Flo’s snooping at Emily’s instigation that gives them the break they need.
A Quiet Life in the Country will entertain and amuse in equal measure, and the writer is a new talent worth discovering. There’s a hint of PG Wodehouse about the storytelling, combined with a sense that it’s been purposely styled to feel like a classic crime novel. Think Adela Bradley and Laura Menzies in Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs Bradley books. An absolute joy to read and most definitely a series to watch out for.
Thomas & Mercer
CFL Rating: 5 Stars