Author: A.H. Richardson

Publisher: Serano Press, 2015

ISBN: 978-1515283973

Expect a delightful time in an English village with all the familiar characters of a bygone era. For me, it was a sentimental journey back to when one could be driving over West Country fields between hedgerows and come abruptly into a narrow street bounded by rows of stone houses, without bumping into weekenders and holidaymakers, before teddy bears were imported from China. This author has built on the appeal of the “cozy,” sustained by reruns of series on the BBC and American Public Television. If you are a fan, think “Midsomer Murders” and “Father Brown,” and you will get the idea. A.H. Richardson had captured this spirit to perfection, and chosen her players to satisfy our longing for a plot that involves antiques, vicars, constables, gardeners, and kitchen servants, all swirling around the inherited furniture and diminished land holdings of a bohemian aristocrat, the kind that welcomed in the decadent years before World War II, and hasn’t quite let them go.

After the word gets out that Bartholomew Fynche has been found battered and bloodied in his shop, Inspector Stanley Burgess gradually discovers most of the residents of the village are relieved to see him dead. Burgess calls in his friend Sir Victor Hazlitt, an amateur detective, to help determine who the culprit is, and Hazlitt calls in Beresford Brandon, a famed Shakespearean actor starting an encore career (as he is now too corpulent for leading roles). The three make up an enterprising team to interview the multitude of suspects. However, it is a young lass who finds the evidence that will put the pieces of the puzzle together. The women in this story are interesting creatures. I think Lady Augusta has graced our imaginations before, so delectable is her appearance in a flowing, floral gown, lemon-yellow turban, and a tangle of beads. The post mistress as a lover is a fresh note.

The author has a sense of humor. She grew up in England, apparently cultured and well-educated, so her tiniest details are reliable, including references to literary phrases and Francophile culinary pretensions. She has incorporated spies, Scotland Yard, and First Class train travel. She writes succinctly, clearly, but generously, to define just about everything you want to know about life in England, or perhaps what she wants the reader to believe (a far cry from what we read in the headlines coming from London these days). She provides an escape into a dangerous situation that can be solved. (Maybe that’s why mysteries are so popular; they can be solved.)

It may be relevant to inform readers that A.H. Richardson (also an interesting woman) previously published a story about dragons for children. She has continued to work in both genres, and I would not hesitate to recommend anything she writes because her skills of observation are keen and her prose so well honed.