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Murder in Little Shendon Kindle Edition
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The author of this cozy whodunit is Angela Richardson, who writes under the name A.H. Richardson. Before relocating to Tennessee, she was born in London and is the daughter of Britain’s famous composer and pianist, Clive Richardson. Like many writers, her life has been filled with a spectrum of pursuits, such as painting, sculpting, acting, learning four languages, recording voice overs, and even Dressage. (I had to look that last one up, since I know next to nothing about the art of horse training for exhibition.) Richardson has been a reader all her life and has published more than half a dozen novels.
This novel is about solving the murder of Mr. Fynche, a local shopkeeper but also an enigmatic man once connected to MI5 and whose personality is abrasive enough to make him the least-liked person in town. Inspector Stanley Burgess investigates the crime along with his friend and former MI5 agent himself Sir Victor Hazlitt and his friend Beresford “Berry” Brandon. Berry is a charming man who thinks of himself first as an amateur detective. His day job is as a Shakespearean actor.
No book is perfect, so let me give you the cons first.
I am, at best, a casual reader of mysteries, so take this with a grain of salt.
There is really only one issue I had with the book. Early on, the story was difficult to get into. Everyone in town was a suspect, and so the three investigators (primarily Berry and Sir Hazlitt) interviewed every person on the list. After a while, it felt like the same scene over and over. I wanted to trade some of the talking heads for action. This sensation eventually flipped, though, and I started turned pages eagerly until the end of the book.
Let’s start with the cover, which I love. It is just a blood splatter on black, but its simplicity makes it eye-catching. It was done by illustrator Jeff Preston.
Richardson handles the technical side of writing well. The author was invisible throughout the story, as a writer should be. As Stephen King said, “It is the tale, not he who tells it.” Her dialogue is also authentic. In fact, it is one of the best things about the book. I could easily hear the character’s accents and rhythms of speech. This is primarily how Richardson differentiated the characters, instead of relying on physical features. Characters are difficult to bring to life on the printed page, but dialog is one of the best ways. She took full advantage of it.
Best of all, I did not figure out who the murder was beforehand.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?
Sure. It is a quick read and harkens back to the traditional mystery tale. Plus, it is not just another detective mystery trying to take a new angle on Sherlock Holmes.
Oh, those British mysteries! How I love them! From Agatha Christie to Ian Rankin (OK, he’s Scottish, and I go for the Irish stories too), the Inspectors, DCIs, and detectives, pros and aficionados, have always entertained me (so much so that my new book is an homage to Christie). This one’s a who-done-it a la Christie, mostly taking part in a rural village where everybody knows everybody, and everybody seems to be a suspect!
The cast of characters—it takes a village—features Inspector Stanley Burgess, the local constable, Sir Victor Hazlitt, nephew (really cousin) of Lady Armstrong, the richest woman in the village, and almost-famous actor Beresford Brandon. The latter two men go to Little Shendon to help Burgess find the murderer of the hated Mr. Fynche who seems to have had everyone in the village mad at him for one thing or the other and not regretting his demise.
There are twists and turns and an entire collection of English characters who are delightful in their eccentricities. Who did the dirty deed? The dirty deed seems associated with other ones. What connects them all? I’ll not go into details to avoid spoilers. Suffice to say that I had two candidates among the many but wasn’t sure until the end—I was right with one, but I suppose as an author I have an unfair advantage.
This author shows her British roots even though she now lives in Tennessee. Like many of us, she had a very interesting life before she became an author and before she came to the U.S., presumably most of that interesting life in Britain. I found this to be an entertaining mystery with all the key ingredients—good plot, characterization, description, dialogue, and a wee bit of dry British humor that follows the Goldilocks Principle. I read the print version for this review, but there’s also a reasonably priced e-book version. Definitely worth a summer read if you’re a fan of this genre.
The only negative for me were the residual editing errors, particularly those associated with quotation marks. Those can be a bit confusing at times, so readers will have to get past them—it’s easy enough to do if you’re an avid reader. Perhaps my eagle-like editing eye did me no favors! If you get past them, you’re bound to have an enjoyable read.
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I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
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Little Shendon is a picturesque village in England full of colorful...Read more