Murder at the Gardens by Lisa Cutts

Today I am delighted to share my thoughts on the third book in the Belinda Penshurst series by Lisa Cutts, Murder At The Gardens. A massive happy publication day to the author and my thanks to publisher Bookouture for the #booksontour invite and providing the advance copy of the book for review. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 14 April 2022
Publisher: Bookouture

About the Book

A lovely day out takes a dark turn when a complaining customer is found dead… Luckily amateur sleuth Belinda Penshurst is on the scene – and ready to investigate!

Belinda Penshurst has always loved Brabourne Gardens. A keen animal lover, she enjoys walking its winding paths and listening to the excited squeals of schoolchildren encountering the kind of wildlife you don’t normally find in England. So when one of the visitors is found strangled, she’s determined to learn whodunnit – and why.

The victim, Simon Carter, had a reputation for making trouble… But surely that’s not a good enough reason to want him dead. Together with retired detective Harry Powell, Belinda investigates the goings-on behind the scenes, and learns that some of the staff are more savage than the animals.

Is it Estelle Samuels, the anti-social owner, who clearly has something to hide? Or the security guard who takes his job too seriously? Most worrying of all, Belinda’s ex Ivan was there when the body was found, and she’s determined to clear his name. As suspicions swirl, one thing’s for sure: if Belinda keeps following the killer’s tracks, she might find herself in their sights…

Can she sniff out a murderer, before she becomes prey?

A completely unputdownable and charming cozy mystery. Fans of M.C. Beaton, H.Y. Hanna or Emily Organ will love the Belinda Penshurst series!

My Thoughts

Belinda Penshurst, Harry Powell and a whole zoo full of animals. What is not to love about this book? Well, aside from the odd murder to two any way … I really do enjoy this series by Lisa Cutts. Yes – it’s a giant step away from my normal go to of dark and dangerous crime fiction, but sometimes you just want a book you can lose yourself in, enjoying the characters and the story with a hint of a smile on your face and, for me, this is one of those series. There are some more serious, heart pumping moments of jeopardy – it’s still crime fiction after all – but those are tempered by the fun, lovable characters and the humour and friendship that flows from the start to finish of this book.

I’ve loved seeing the development of the characters of Belinda and Harry over the course of the series. There is a real spark between them, a friendship which I’ve enjoyed seeing blossom, and whilst they are probably chalk and cheese in terms of social standing – the castle dwelling Belinda verses ex-cop Harry – they make a perfect pairing when it comes to investigating the crimes that seem to plague Little Challham and its surrounds. Once again the duo are faced with a murder, not right on the doorstep this time, but in the grounds of the zoo at Brabourne Gardens, where Harry has just accepted a job on security. Not quite how he expected his first day to go.

There are no end of suspects in this particular case. The victim was a bit of a trouble maker, well known for taking companies to court over the smallest of matters and who seemingly had a bit of a gripe with the zoo too. But then the zoo is also victim to a wave of vandalism, and a collection of protestors, both for and against the zoo’s conservation plans. And to complicate matters, both Harry and Belinda are a trifle distracted by the arrival of her former partner, Ivan, on the scene. There is something a little … off … about his behaviour that keeps us all on high alert, especially Harry who has his own reasons to obsess about Ivan and his ‘very high forehead’. I love the mystery and the misdirection that flowed through this, and seeing the emotional tug of war that Belinda is going through, torn between her attraction to Ivan and her feelings for Harry. It makes for a great backdrop to an intriguing story.

With more murders than a Rattler could shake its tail at, and a few too many close encounters of the animal kind, Lisa Cutts really gives us a brilliant story that is perfectly paced and full of fun. I loved the way in which she has woven all the different animals into the story, it’s definitely a very unique backdrop and gives the opportunity for some very hairy moments. And I’m not just referring to Ivan’s near clash with one of the zoo’s big cats. There are the emotional pulls surrounding the animals themselves, and the whole debate over conservation which has a real ring of truth about it. The author doesn’t try to take a side, but presents both opinions quite well, whilst keeping it entertaining at the same time.

And the ending of the book – loved it. Hope this means there will be more to come from our intrepid duo as they are shaping up to be one of my favourite go to amateur detective reads. Fun, witty, packed full of brilliant characters and plenty of mystery, it’s a big thumbs up from me.

About the Author

Murder in the Village is Lisa’s seventh crime fiction novel and her first cozy crime novel.

Never Forget was the winner of the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award 2014.

Lisa was a full-time detective constable for twenty-five years, most of which she spent investigating murders.

Lisa writes crime books with her insider knowledge from the heart of the incident room and is busy writing her new series set in Kent. Belinda Penshurst, amateur sleuth teams up with retired detective inspector Harry Powell to solve murders in the village of Little Challham.

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