May Day Murder by Julie Wassmer
Solving a murder in Whitstable takes local knowledge, inspiration and a sure instinct for people. All of which Pearl, a private detective who has spent her life living in the town, certainly has in great quantities. Her training as a police officer several years before has given her a background of knowledge of the more technical police procedures, as well as her friendship with DCI Mike McGuire. This book is the third in a series which features Pearl, her colourful mother Dolly, and her son Charlie. Happily this book can definitely be read as a standalone, as the author inserts many details concerning Pearl, her friends and the place itself. Her other business, running an oyster restaurant and catering for events, leads her to make contacts in the community although she is well known already. In this particular book a retired film star, Faye Marlow, has returned to the town where she was born and grew up. Her arrival raises emotions for many people, and the drama proves not to be confined to a film screening. As the centre piece event, the opening of the May Day celebrations draws near, tensions erupt in several ways, culminating in the very public display of a murdered body.
As the book opens, the outrageous Dolly is leaving Pearl in no doubt that Faye’s return reminds more than a few people of the trouble she caused when younger. Faye got a lucky break of an audition for a film in Hollywood as a young woman, and rapidly found a career in America before retiring with her husband to France. Her departure for America was after she had been engaged to successful local businessman, Jerry Wheeler, and abandoned their relationship in favour of stardom. Her return to the area has been negotiated by Pearl’s friend Nathan, working with a young woman from the town, Purdy. Both of them have a great enthusiasm for films, and they were extremely pleased to greet Faye, her P.A. Barbara, her chauffeur Luc and maid Rosine. Pearl is summoned to a borrowed house in the grounds of the Castle, a local landmark, with a lunch she had originally made to be eaten in her restaurant. Meeting Faye she appreciates how charming she is, but equally how demanding she could be as befits her star status. One or two events bring lots of people, eager to see the film star returned, but at least one person finds that old passions arise again with messy results. It is when a body is found in dramatic circumstances that DCI McGuire reappears on the scene professionally, aware that working with Pearl has caused him problems previously. It is a central part of the series, however, that he finds Pearl deeply attractive, and she is also interested in him. It is a sad fact that every time that get they get closer, something happens which diverts them.
This is a book which is very entertaining with a strong sense of place and characters that are realistic, strongly drawn and enjoyable. Whitstable is a community which is central to the story and the descriptions of the place really bring the story alive. The murder is a central part of the narrative, with all the tensions of an investigation and other issues. This is a really interesting series of books which combines descriptions of delicious food, the places in which the events happen and more. I really enjoy the settings, the characters and the plots of these books, and I would like to read more.
This was a book that I discovered as the daughter’s room was being cleared of her stuff to be taken to her new house. There was a lot of it! Happily as the way through to the selves is clear I am discovering lots of treasures. Not that it stops me wanting to buy some new books of course!