I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in the #booksontour event for An English Garden Murder by Katie Gayle. My thanks to publisher Bookouture for the invite and the advance copy of the book for review. I’m really starting to lket reading some of the lighter side of crime fiction and this one is a cracker. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Meet Julia Bird: recently single, reluctantly retired, and… an amateur sleuth?
Julia Bird has left London for a fresh start in a picturesque Cotswolds village, and the rustic charm and cosy fireplaces of her little cottage are everything she’d hoped for. But when she tears down the old garden shed to make way for a chicken coop, she unearths much more than she’d bargained for… the body of a young woman, apparently buried for decades, thrusting Julia into a baffling mystery.
With only one copper on the case in Berrywick, Julia decides to solve the who and whodunnit herself, taking her wayward puppy Jake along for the ride. And so begins a whirlwind tour of the village – from the dotty 90-year-old to the delightful doctor and the village gardener, it seems everyone has something to hide.
Soon, Julia is convinced she has discovered the killer’s identity, until Jake, a true Labrador, finds a new love of the local lake’s waterfowl and instead ends up catching her chief suspect… drowned. Back at square one, with potential culprits galore, Julia – newly nicknamed the Grim Reaper – despairs at ever solving the murders.
But as Julia ruffles feathers village-wide, the clock is ticking. There is someone in the village who has killed twice already. Will they be prepared to make it third time lucky to keep their secret safe?
This totally addictive page-turning cozy mystery is perfect for fans of M.C. Beaton, Faith Martin and Betty Rowlands.
You know what? I really enjoyed this. Possibly because I can identify with Julia Bird, to a degree. Who wouldn’t want to engage upon the quiet life in the country after a long career and a less than successful marriage? Not that I have had the marriage part, but retiring to the country sounds nice. I practically live there already. And as for everything that happens afterwards … well. That’s kind of how I’d expect my luck to go as well to be honest. Move anything in my back garden you are almost certain to dig up bones. Of the family pet variety rather than human, admittedly, but the sentiment is the same.
This is such a great mystery, well layered with a number of potential suspects, including the couple that Julia bought the cottage off who seem to have conveniently disappeared. Throwing herself into village life really puts her into the perfect position to start digging, not literally, into the case, albeit against the advice of the police. It allows her to unearth a whole host of clues, deep rooted secrets that someone will do anything to keep buried, even committing murder.
Can I get anymore garden related puns/metaphors into this review? I can try.
Julia is a great character. Very down to earth (no pun intended that time) and such a relatable character that I really liked her from the off. She is naturally likeable, no need to force anything to fit in and being the new girl in town gives her, and us, the advantage as there is a certain expectation of curiosity. Not that everyone appreciates it and on more than the odd occasion you can feel that kind of jeopardy around Julia as people really want her to keep out of things. She also seems to have a kind of homing beacon when it comes to discovering bodies and it’s no wonder that there are raised eyebrows about her own involvement in what is going on around town.
There is a wonderful thread of cosy romantic tinged moments as she finds herself growing closer to local Doctor and fellow book club member, Sean O’Connor, and some real moments of humour with her best friend Tabitha, as well as the expected gossip amongst the book group. It’s not everyday they dig up bodies in the village afterall. You get the real sense of a close knit community and, in spite of the fact you know one of them is most likely guilty of murder, I couldn’t help but like them. There is a real sense of place about the book too, the authors capturing that small village feeling, that shared history that Julia is just on the outside of. Not for long mind. There is nothing like living in a notorious cottage for making you the number one focus for all and sundry.
As with any mystery, the clues are all there as to who may have done what. If you are paying close attention, you’ll probably work out part of what has happened, but perhaps not the whole picture. Certain parts of the story, certain clues and revelations, are kept to just the right moment, to keep us all guessing. There are some more poignant moments revealed too, ones which give us a better understanding of the characters involved in this sad tale.
This was a great little mystery with some brilliant and memorable characters, a sometimes emotional, often heartwarming but always entertaining read and I’m looking forward to seeing what mess Julia finds herself in next.
About the Author
Katie Gayle is the writing partnership of best-selling South African writers, Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel. Kate and Gail have, between them, written over ten books of various genres, but with Katie Gayle, they both make their debut in the cozy mystery genre. Both Gail and Kate live in Johannesburg, with husbands, children, dogs and cats.
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