A Pretty Folly by Charlie Garratt is the second in a series set just prior to the outbreak of war in 1939. Although there are a couple of mentions to the previous book's mystery, this one works as a stand-alone.
Inspector James Givens is Jewish, but doesn't practice, although he is very close to his parents. Assigned to stop the attack on Jewish businesses in Coventry Givens interviews the victims and searches for the perpetrators. Then a case closer to his home in Kenilworth divides his attention.
The body of a young woman is discovered in the ancient crypt of a chapel on the grounds of a charity school. The body has been laid out in a staged manner and the conditions of the crypt preserved the body, but who she is and when and how she died presents problems.
I liked the setting with all the tensions of the period before England enters the war and the traditional style of the writing and investigation. Givens is an interesting character, and I look forward to more in this series.
Historical Fiction. Oct. 7, 2019. Print length: 268 pages.
Catriona McPherson's books have consistently chilled and intrigued me. Strangers at the Gate makes the fifth of her intense mystery/thrillers that I've read. Each one is a stand-alone, which is unusual for such a prolific writer.
Strangers at the Gate proves the old axiom "Too good to be true."
Paddy's new job results in a new job for Finn, and the rent free gate house on the boss's estate is an added bonus. Paddy is enthusiastic, Finn less so, but when opportunity knocks, turning down so many advantages proves too difficult.
Simmerton is located in a valley and the mountains that surround it make sunlight brief; combined with the lack of sunlight, Finn is uncomfortable with the oppressive atmosphere of the surrounding woods.
Shortly after moving in, Paddy and Finn are invited to have dinner with Paddy's boss and his wife. The Dudgets, Lovett and Tuft, live in a grand dower house called Widdershins, a short walk through the woods from the gate house. Finn is reluctant to go, but once there, she has a surprisingly good time. Tuft is irrepressible and funny, and Finn enjoys the evening.
As Paddy and Finn are walking home after the dinner, Finn realizes she has forgotten her bag. The two return to find that in the short time they were gone, Lovett and Tuft are dead. Finn tells Paddy to call the police, but he persuades her to wait until the return to the gate house where they discuss their shock and horror. We also discover why Paddy would rather not call the police at all and why Finn finally agrees.
As they wait for the deaths to be discovered by someone else, the strain on Finn and Paddy increases.
Was it a suicide or murder? The suspense and twists increase when an email from Lovett to his office was after the time Paddy and Finn found the couple dead. Finn makes some too rapid assumptions about what has happened and there are a few connections that don't feel coherent, but I was glued to the pages until the end ignoring a few details (or lack thereof) that bothered me. McPherson is a master of suspense, and I was along for the ride.
NetGalley/St. Martin's Press
Suspense. Oct. 22, 2020. Print length: 368 pages.