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Saturday, September 17, 2011

A so-English murder mystery

Three Silent Things

One picks up the most surprising books at the public library, occasionally – and sometimes they are most pleasant surprises.

I borrowed Margaret Mayhew’s Three Silent Things (Severn House, 2008) for the simple reason that very good friends have the same surname (happy birthday, Donald!).

I must add that there was some encouragement from a short extract from the Booklist review of one of Margaret Mayhew’s previous books (and apparently the first in this series), called Old Soldiers Never Die, which was featured on the front jacket.

“Recommended to anyone who likes the classic English village mystery,” it read. I love the TV series “Midsomer Murders” simply because of the lovely English houses and gardens, the plots often being best disregarded, and so I felt quite optimistic when I turned the first pages.

I wasn’t let down. Three Silent Things is replete with village greens, atmospheric English pubs, thatched houses, and pretty English gardens. It also has wonderfully eccentric and memorable characters, including a cat with distinct personality, known by the name of “Thursday.” This, it seems, was the day of the week it adopted the protagonist, a likeable and not-at-all-doddery retired colonel.

The murder is understated, and the denouement not unexpected – though I thought the Colonel extremely daring to reveal the identity of the murderer to the murderer himself, alone and with no witnesses. It was quite a step away from the usual assembling of the entire cast of characters before the detective unburdens his carefully thought-out conclusions. But, while it may have undermined credibility a little (as I couldn’t help but wonder why the murderer didn’t simply indulge in another murder), it certainly did not detract from the charm of the book.

I will be reading more from the author. And what were the three silent things? Read the book yourself, and find out.

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