Cause of Death by Anna Legat – A Murder Mystery set in the English village of Bishops Well – The Shires Mysteries Book Three – Maggie and Sam back in action

Cause of Death by Anna Legat

There is a lot of action in this murder mystery set in the evidently dangerous village of Bishops Well, but it is mainly of a non gory nature as this is the third in a series featuring the memorable Maggie and her more sensible friend Sam. I believe it can be read as a standalone as all the relevant characters are well introduced (or reintroduced) and as with the earlier Shires Mysteries the settings in and around the village are well described. Maggie is a remarkable character and recounts some of the chapters from her own point of view which enables her to explain why she takes some of the actions she does; her special “gift” gives her some insight into what may have happened. The author has created a story with several strands and many mysteries which take some solving as they are certainly more than straightforward whodunnits. There is, as usual, a fair bit of humour as Maggie has her obsessions like jaffa cakes and a particular kind of fudge, as well as a dubious choice of footwear on a day which ends up needing a lot of walking and running. Sam’s background as a lawyer will be tested in this story, but it will be the story of his late wife Alice which will occupy many of his thoughts and emotions. This is a lively and exciting novel which I found completely enthralling as always, challenging to work out and with plenty of surprises. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable book. 

The members of the Bishops Well Archaeological Association have rallied round at Maggie’s behest to create an apparently historical white horse. The fact that it looks a little more like a donkey does not impress Maggie, but they hope it will help them to fend off the attempts of local developers eager to exploit the disputed land. Various people in the village have vested interests in the possibilities of selling and buying the land, especially as it includes a building which has sheltered orphans from various war zones over the years. Local politics come to the fore as the various interest groups express themselves freely at meetings. When Maggie and Sam make a tragic discovery in the church it presses them into wondering what motivated a brutal act, and sends Maggie into investigative overdrive despite the warnings of the local police in the person of DI Gillian Marsh, the main character in Anne Legat’s other series of novels. In this book she finds Maggie and Sam’s involvement a bit annoying, not to mention sometimes illegal. Maggie discovers that there may have been something at another place which may have implications for her current investigation, and typically she throws herself into an undercover role. Meanwhile the need to finally go through Alice’s paperwork which has been stored in the garage means that Sam finally makes discoveries that could explain her tragic loss, despite the apparent verdict on what happened. 

This is a very interesting book with so much going on, with Maggie usually in the thick of it. I have always enjoyed the stories of the remarkable residents of Bishop’s Well, and this novel presents new developments. I certainly recommend this novel in this series, and am keen to know what happens next.     

At Death’s Door by Anna Legat – A mystery in Bishops Well proves a challenge for Maggie and Sam

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.   

Death Comes to Bishops Well by Anna Legat – the first in a series of village mysteries with some surprising elements

Death Comes to Bishops Well by Anna Legat

Sam Dee is a lawyer who decides that he wants a quieter life than London offers, and so buys a house in the beautiful and traditional village of Bishops Well. Within a short time everything changes, and Sam is not the only person to wonder exactly what is happening in this apparently peaceful community. Anna Legat’s first book in the Shires Mysteries series is a well written cosy mystery with much to offer, including gentle humour, a special talent or two, and some genuinely touching moments. It also introduces some characters who are extremely memorable, especially Maggie Kaye, the next door neighbour who has special insight. Another minor character appears to have featured in a previous series by Legat, Detective Inspector Gillian Marsh. Maggie narrates every other chapter of this novel, so very early on the reader is let into a secret that she hides very well. 

This book is a contemporary mystery which is presented in a lively way. The general narration enables the reader to discover more than Maggie can witness and understand herself, and Maggie’s sometimes humorous  and down to earth observations are frequently more thoughtful. Legat manages all her characters, plot and the well paced narration of this book very well. I found it a very enjoyable book which I was so glad to have the opportunity to read and review.

Any reservation Sam might have about moving to a quiet village is soon dismissed as he encounters his old friend Richard Ruta who is throwing a birthday party. Richard is a well known film director who has an interesting past, including his traumatic arrival in Britain. His expansive character and apparently generous disposition means that he has invited all of his three wives, the first two who he divorced. Dotty, the first wife who now lives in Florida, has been trying to hold back time with “All the bloody surgeries and implants she’s been through”. Mary, the second wife, lives in Bishops Well and is a friend of Maggie, an ordinary woman who was somewhat abruptly replaced by the glamorous Penny, the present wife. When Sam surprisingly asks Maggie to be his plus one at the birthday party, she is delighted not only to be singled out by him, but also because she is a Richard Ruta fan of long standing. She is keen to find out what he is really like, but is as surprised as most people when the party is interrupted by a demonstration which reminds everyone of a tragedy which took place at the house. When Richard drops down dead it is the start of events which no one could have foreseen, and Maggie’s determination to find out what really happened not only involves a largely bewildered Sam but also people who have history with Richard.

This is a lively book which covers not only the usual elements of a closed community mystery, but also some surprising additional elements. There are evidently some back stories in the case of Maggie and her family, Sam and others which I assume will emerge in future instalments in this promising series. I found that there are surprising themes in this book which are unusual to find in what at first glance is a “cosy” mystery which hints at depths to come. I enjoyed this book greatly, found it entertaining and I would therefore recommend it as the start of a series.