A Village Fete Murder by Katie Gayle

Today I am delighted to be part of the books on tour for A Village Fete Murder, the brand new Julia Bird mystery from Katie Gayle. My thanks to publisher Bookouture for the advance copy and the tour invite. Here’s what it’s all about:

Source: Netgalley
Release Date: 27 January 2023
Publisher: Bookouture

About the Book

Julia Bird can’t wait to attend the annual village party at the local stately home, with its tea tents, cake stalls, and… dead body in the maze?

The annual village celebration at Berrywick House is underway, complete with over-decorated cake stalls, fiercely contested flower competitions, and even a maze for the disappointed losers to hide in. Julia Bird, now a well-known – even notorious – member of the community, with her trusty Labrador Jake, has thrown herself headlong into the festivities. But her reputation for adding drama to any event stands up yet again when she discovers a dead body in the maze…

It seems Ursula Benjamin, village know-it-all and prickly baking competition participant, has been strangled – and the killer has to be someone at the fete. As Julia grapples with finding yet another murder in Berrywick, she starts to wonder, could one of the competitive cake-bakers have taken the contest to deadly new heights? Or is there something darker in Ursula’s life that led to her untimely demise?

Embroiled once again in a murder enquiry, Julia isn’t about to leave the investigation to the police. Like it or not, she’s involved, and she’s going to help them solve the mystery. But when there’s another death, and it’s clear the murders aren’t isolated incidents, the stakes become even higher. Can Julia figure out the identity of the killer, and prevent any further dastardly deeds, before the wholesome spirit of the village is ruined forever?

If you like utterly gripping English mysteries, then you’ll love A Village Fete Murder. Perfect for fans of M.C. Beaton, Faith Martin and Betty Rowlands.

My Thoughts

I starting to think that Julia Bird is not a safe person to be around, or that she may be a bad omen or something. She’s definitely Berrywick’s answer to Miss Marple, only not as old and certainly not a spinster as her blossoming romance with local doctor Sean would attest. She does, however, have a knack for stumbling upon murders, this time discovering a body in the grounds of Berrywick House in the midst of the annual village fete. The victim, the winner of the hotly contested backing competition. The suspects … well that’s a pretty ling list as it happens. But is it a case of Bakeoff gone rogue, or something far more sinister?

I really do like the character of Julia Bird. She’s very everyday, exactly the kind of person you can imagine having a catch up with over a cup of tea in The Buttered Scone. She’s not wonder woman, not a larger than life busybody who `must be a part of everything, just somewhat inquisitive following her years in Social Services, and when she sees a loose thread she just can’t resist pulling it. She’s fun as well as determined, and between her and her mad and often uncontrollable Labrador, Jake, often the source of much amusement throughout the book too. She’s strangely believable as an amateur Detective and whilst it often frustrates local DI, Hayley Gibson, they do make a good pair and any potential villains in the area should watch out.

I liked the mystery that enveloped this story, lots of misdirection to keep readers on their toes and guessing right to the end of the book. Far from being a wonder baker and pillar of society, it appears that the first victim has a wicked side, and the motive for her murder is not entirely clear. There are many suspects, introduced carefully and in such a way that it casts doubt on anything you might think you know. The authors have dne a great job of hiding the truth in plain sight, and in finding new and very plausible ways for Julia to uncover just the right amount of evidence to move the case along.

This is a wonderful example of cosy crime at its best. Despite a dark topic – murder – it is light hearted but still full of suspense and enough tension to keep me on tenterhooks. The pace picks up well towards the end, concluding in a dramatic showdown with the killer, for this series anyway. Because dramatic in this case is potentially life threatening, but still with an air of the wonderful humour that I love about these books.

I’ve really enjoyed seeing Julia progress and settle into the village. From such a dramatic introduction to the area, there is a real positivity about her personal, and even professional life now, and with family really at the heart of everything this particular story is about, perhaps a hint of something good about to happen for Julia at home too. Recommended for fans of fun, witty, cosy crime with a wonderfully rural air.

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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