A tragic blaze at an 18th century Cotswold manor house is not the only thing that has left a small town smouldering in Ann Granger’s new Campbell and Carter mystery.
Think of the strangely insular characters who inhabit ITV’s Midsomer Murders, cut back drastically on the alarming body count, replace Barnaby with a male/female police duo and the scene is set for an entertaining whodunit.
Bricks and Mortality is the third book in what is fast becoming a quirky and intriguing crime series in which the eclectic cast often comes close to stealing the show from the plotline.
Weston St Ambrose is a close-knit community where people tend to know everyone else’s business and where events from the past can impact dangerously on the present.
Key House, a once impressive but fast crumbling mansion, has been lying empty for six years since its wealthy, enigmatic owner, Gervase Crown, left to live the high life in Portugal.
Local busybody Roger Trenton has long regarded the house as a ‘tinderbox’ just waiting for disaster to happen so when it goes up in flames one night, he is certainly not surprised.
And when a man’s body is found under the rubble in what was once the kitchen, investigating police officer Inspector Jess Campbell is told that the victim is more than likely an unfortunate vagrant.
When Campbell and her senior Supt Ian Carter discover from another neighbour that she is sure she spotted Gervase Crown near the house in the days before the blaze, they start to speculate that he might be responsible for both the fire and the death that has now been confirmed as murder.
But it soon becomes clear that the return of Crown – whose wild youth caused a scandal and who is still not the most popular person in the town – has reawakened old and dark memories.
With threats to Crown’s life, deadly grudges, tight-lipped locals, a mystery corpse and a scene of crime virtually destroyed in the blaze, our two detectives have got a tough case on their hands…
Bricks and Mortality is an enjoyable crime teaser full of small town subterfuge, beautifully observed characters and a twisting, turning storyline.
What next for Campbell and Carter?
(Headline, paperback, £7.99)