At Death’s Door by Anna Legat
This is a “cosy” murder mystery set in the traditional English village, but one that suddenly becomes much bigger as one character recalls the mysteries of her life which are on a far wider stage. Those who read the first book in this series will recognize some of the characters, but this novel stands alone in its narrative. Maggie, who sometimes takes over the otherwise third person narration to reveal what she thinks, is a wonderful character with a special talent, almost a burden, which helps with investigations in the village of Bishops Well. When combined with the restraining personality of Samuel Dee, neighbour, good friend and confidante who can bring his legal experience and knowledge to a situation, they form an impressive team. In this book he must introduce the strong character of his mother Deirdre for support and her cooking skills to back him up – as Maggie is thrown into confusion and some despair by events close to home and further away. There is still humour, a number of secrets and some interesting food options in this book of contemporary mystery and much more. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this very good novel.
The book opens with a somewhat fed-up Sam joining an archaeological dig in a local spot in unpromising weather. When a body is discovered, there is celebration as the assumption is that they have found the Celtic remains that they sought. It is, however, immediately apparent to an on-site pathologist that this is a much more recently buried body, and one that needs to be identified. Maggie for various reasons offers her ideas – and more – to the police in the form of a rather testy DI Gillian Marsh, as well as chatting with someone most concerned with the probable crime. As the various residents of the village discuss the potential wrongdoers, old memories emerge of secret departures and assumptions made about a young woman many years before. Maggie meanwhile must cope with the outcome of a situation that has been in the background for slightly less time. It is a welcome distraction when she is drafted in as a supply teacher to a local school and discovers a young man who has issues. Sam is meanwhile finding his feet in the village after leaving London. He has had a traumatic time, and it is to his credit that he tries so hard to help his friend Maggie, even when he wonders why when she behaves in such memorable ways.
This is a book which I found easy to immerse myself in, even when the narrative took a surprising direction. Legat is a sensitive writer as well as providing an element of humour, especially where Maggie is concerned. She is so good at giving us Maggie’s slightly chaotic view of life throughout this book, as well as balancing a mystery which involves many local people and challenges to her family. The setting of her cottage and the other elements of Bishops Well is so effective that it is almost possible to visualise the buildings as well as the essence of village life. This is the second book that I have read in “The Shires Mysteries” series and I am certainly looking forward to the next one.