I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Festival Murders – see my review here, so was delighted to be approved to read this third book charting Francis Meadowes’ adventures…
BLURB: Francis Meadowes is soaking up the late summer sun in Italy, running a creative writing course at the beautiful Villa Giulia, deep in the remote Umbrian countryside. Recruited by the villa’s owners, Stephanie and Gerry, Francis’s students include snooty, irritating Poppy and her ex-ambassador husband Duncan, eccentric Northern Irishman Liam, quirky, self-styled ‘Hampstead Jewess’ Zoe, bossy Scottish Diana, kooky young American Sasha, mysterious ‘spy’ Tony and restless civil servant Roz. But what should be a magical week under the Italian sun turns into something far more sinister when one of the group is found dead, and the local police quickly turn to Francis for help. Uncovering betrayal, lies, secrets and old scores to be settled, Francis soon realizes something very dark is lurking beneath the genteel and civilized veneer . . .
If you are looking for a foot-to-the-floor, non-stop action adventure, then this one isn’t for you. McCrum wonderfully conveys the glorious scenery and magical surroundings of this creative writing course by the steady accretion of details and description. His prose style is readable and accomplished, as Francis finds himself unwillingly sucked into the horrible murder. As in the first book, I found Francis to be a really attractive protagonist, and it was easy to empathise with his rather detached interest in everyone around him. Writers tend to be a bit vampiric about their own lives, always wondering if they can use what happens around them as material for another book… McCrum uses this side of Francis’ character to very good effect. I thought the crafting of the whodunit was also exceptionally well done – there were a raft of suspects, most with plausible reasons why they should want the victim done away with. But I couldn’t work out who was the murderer until the denouement, though flipping back, the clues were clearly there. Nicely done – and not always the case in cosy mysteries.
Francis’ own involvement was both bizarre and yet believable – and I very much liked the fact we weren’t allowed to forget that someone had died. Particularly with the second death, there was a real sense of shock and loss at the wicked waste of life, which not only upped the stakes, but made it matter that the perpetrator was caught. Overall, this was a classy effort and I shall certainly be following these mysteries and reading more. Highly recommended. The ebook arc copy of Murder Your Darlings was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.