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This novel is the first in a series of detective mysteries set in the Peak District and featuring DCs Ben Cooper and Diane Fry. A 15 year old girl is murdered and as the police try to find out who did it and why, they are hampered by the secrets being kept by many of the villagers, as well as their own personal demons.

There was a lot to like about this novel; I enjoyed the setting, which is obviously somewhere well known to the author, and he shows his knowledge through the Cooper character – Ben is a native Peak District inhabitant and knows the area like the back of his hand. Fry has recently transferred to the area from the West Midlands Police Service – for reasons that become apparent late on in the story, although hints are dropped here and there beforehand – and is therefore not as knowledgeable about either the area or the local people. Both are quite spiky characters, although Ben is infinitely more likeable. There are also other characters, mainly their colleagues, who I imagine will also feature in future novels in the series.

The mystery itself was well drawn and I didn’t guess the ending, which was a pleasant surprise, especially as it wasn’t outlandish (I hate it when you read a mystery where the ending turns out to be something completely out of left-field which no reader would have been able to guess; happily that wasn’t the case here).

My only slight niggle with this novel was that I felt there was a fair bit of unnecessary overly descriptive pieces, and I did think that it could have done with a bit of editing. But it’s the first book in a series and also the author’s debut novel, so I will be interested to see how the characters and how the writing develops.

I will be reading more books in this series, and I would recommend this novel to fans of the mystery genre.

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This is the second book in the Murdoch Mysteries series, set in Toronto in the late 1800s, and featuring Detective William Murdoch.  The series spawned three movie length television films, and a five (so far) season television show.  The television show is one of my favourite programmes, and I was eager to read the books.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series, and this one is no disappointment either.

In this installment of the Murdoch Mysteries, a woman named Dolly Merishaw is found murdered in her home.  Murdoch discovers that she was a former midwife, who provided a place for unwed mothers to have their children, as well as providing drugs to aid abortion, but that her mean and greedy nature caused a lot of anger and resentment among the women whom she ‘helped’.  He quickly discovers that she is the victim of murder, and there are no shortage of suspects.  However, when one of her young foster sons is also discovered dead a week later, he has no idea whether he is looking for one murderer or two.  His investigation takes him to some surprising places, and he realises that a lot of people have secrets which they wish to remain hidden.

As with the first book, the story is pacey, and kept me guessing throughout.  (There were clues to point the reader in the right direction, but Maureen Jenning is capable of throwing in some surprises as well!)  I really like the character of Murdoch, although he is quite different from the Murdoch of the tv series.  As portrayed in the book, he comes across as less sensitive and somewhat coarser.  His faithful sidekick Constable Crabtree is as amiable and likeable as viewers of the show know him to be, although in the book, his physical description is very different, and he has a wife, whereas in the tv show, he is a bachelor.  Brackenreid barely appears in the book, and is not a very likeable character when he does(!).  This book gives the first mention of Doctor Julia Ogden – a main character in the tv show.

This particular book takes Murdoch through the upper and lower classes of Toronto, and I thought the portrayal of the city in the late 1800s was particularly evocative and enjoyable.  Clearly, the author has researched her subject extensively.

Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable read, and would definitely recommend it, especially to fans of crime and/or historical fiction.

(Author’s website can be found here.  For more information about the television show Murdoch Mysteries, please click here.)

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Click here for my review of season 1 of the television series, Murdoch Mysteries.

Click here for my review of the first Murdoch Mysteries novel, Except The Dying.

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