15 April 2014

Review: Death by the Book by Juliana Deering

Mystery in a 1930's English Village 

I’ve always enjoyed Agatha Christie novels, as well as Georgette Heyer’s 1930’s detective romps. They are well-written with clever plots, interesting characters, and their ‘contemporary’ setting now reads as a delightful step into days gone by (well, delightful except for the body count).

Juliana Deering’s Drew Farthering mysteries take place in the Hampshire village of Farthering St. John, a small village in which everybody knows everybody else (and their business), and the class system is alive and well. Death by the Book is the second in the series, following Rules of Murder, but can easily be read as a stand-alone—like all good mysteries, we do find out whodunit (and why) at the end, but there is also the ongoing thread of Drew’s relationship with Madeline.

We get straight into the mystery when Drew visits his lawyer in nearby Winchester, only to find he has been murdered and left with a cryptic note stuck to him with an antique hatpin. There’s no apparent motive, and no suspect. Chief Inspector Birdsong is again in charge of the case—and he doesn’t want any help from Drew. However, the lawyer’s widow asks Drew to look into the case, and he soon unearths

The story then moves back to the Farthering estate, where Drew finds Madeline’s aunt, Ruth Jansen, has arrived to take Madeline back home to the States. I have to say I found this abrupt change of pace jarring and I wasn’t convinced by Miss Jansen as a necessary character, as she seemed to detract from the plot rather than add to it.

However, the murder mystery was excellent. As usual, I didn’t guess the identity of the culprit, but in hindsight, the clues all make perfect sense. Recommended for mystery fans.

Thanks to Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free book for review. You can find out more about Juliana Deering at her website.

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