I’ve been reading and reviewing a fairly intense diet of science fiction recently and wanted to ring the changes – then came across this author on Netgalley. Would I enjoy this classical-sounding cosy mystery set at a literary festival?
BLURB: At the start of one of the English summer’s highlights, the annual literary festival in the pretty little country town of Mold-on-Wold, famous critic Bryce Peabody is found dead in his bed at the White Hart Hotel. At first it seems as if fifty-something Bryce might have succumbed to a heart attack, but the forensics team soon uncover evidence of something more sinister. Bryce had made many enemies in the past, with his scandalous private life and scathing reviews. Could it be that one of the many writers he insulted in print has taken a bitter revenge? Or perhaps there’s a more personal reason? Unable to help himself, crime writer Francis Meadowes, who is also staying at the White Hart, is drawn into a role he knows only from his own fiction, that of amateur detective.
If you are looking for a foot-to-the-floor action-packed read, full of chases and gun battles, this isn’t it. This is one of those murder mysteries where there is a dead body which sparks our sympathetic protagonist into deciding to track down his killer… I liked the steady parade of suspects, who all had reasons of their own to wish Bryce dead and the sudden shift in pace and urgency, when there is another death. McCrum is good at giving us a steady drip-feed of plausible, three-dimensional characters without breaking the rhythm of the writing. I always prefer to really like the main protagonist – if I’m going to invest time and energy in reading a book, I’m not all that thrilled if I’m constantly grinding my teeth at the stupidity or sheer nastiness of a lead character. Francis is a thoroughly nice chap, with his own emotional wounds, that somehow drives him on to want to sort out the tangled mess surrounding Bryce’s death.
Any niggles? One that stood out glaringly. A big problem for modern writers of this particular style of genre is the sheer professionalism of our modern police force. No perspiring DI is going to turn to our brilliant-but-quirky investigator to solve the case for her, these days. I think McCrum successfully navigated his way around that hurdle throughout the investigation… just about. And then blew all believability out of the water by staging the classic denouement, where he gathered together all the suspects and walked everyone through the whole thing, before dramatically announcing the murderer. It frankly graunched, yanking me right out of the story and I’ve knocked off a point for that stunt, alone.
Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this classy, well plotted and enjoyable whodunit and I’ll definitely be reading more in this series. The ebook arc copy of The Festival Murders was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.