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.