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.
Well this was a delightful surprise! Once again, I went looking for another interesting murder mystery after a heavy SFF diet – and came across this one…
BLURB: When a young woman comes forward claiming to be the reincarnation of Riya Kaur, a wife and mother who vanished during the bloody 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Puri is dismissive. He’s busy enough dealing with an irate matrimonial client whose daughter is complaining about her groom’s thunderous snoring. Puri’s indomitable Mummy-ji however is adamant the client is genuine. How else could she so accurately describe under hypnosis Riya Kaur’s life and final hours? Driven by a sense of duty – the original case was his late father’s – Puri manages to acquire the police file only to find that someone powerful has orchestrated a cover-up. Forced into an alliance with his mother that tests his beliefs and high blood pressure as never before, it’s only by delving into the past the help of his reincarnated client that Puri can hope to unlock the truth.
I loved this one. Puri is a very busy and increasingly successful private investigator. But this isn’t the usual setting of somewhere in the US or UK – this is bustling India. It would have been so easy to have got this disastrously wrong and it’s a credit to the author and his in-depth knowledge of Indian society and its faultlines that it worked so well. I didn’t always like Puri. He is often impatient, argumentative, and horribly dismissive of his clearly very clever mother, but he’s also loyal, essentially kind-hearted and tenacious in trying to unravel wrongdoing in a society where corruption is deep-seated and people in the highest places often look the other way.
Despite the fact I crashed midway into this series – this is Book Five and I hadn’t read any of the previous offerings in this series – I didn’t at any stage find myself floundering. Hall has a deft writing style that focused on the setting and mystery so that I was swiftly caught up in Puri’s world and didn’t want to put this one down until I had finished it.
The worldbuilding is exceptional. Not only could I clearly visualise it all – I could taste and hear Puri’s surroundings, the pollution, the constant traffic and ceaseless churn of people struggling to earn a living. While Puri’s love of food gave me an insight into its role in Indian society, as well as succeeding in making my mouth water. All this was achieved without holding up the pace or getting in the way of the narrative arc – which is a whole lot harder to pull off than Hall makes it look. As for the two crimes, running side by side, they were brought to a satisfactory enjoyable conclusion without being too tidy. I absolutely loved this one – to the extent that Himself has gone out and bought me the first four books in the series as an early Valentine’s present – no wonder I love the man so much! Highly recommended for fans of murder mysteries in enjoyable and different settings. The ebook arc copy of The Case of the Reincarnated Client was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.