Murder by the Minster by Helen Cox – the first Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mystery

Murder by the Minster by Helen Cox

A murder in contemporary York is fortunately not that common, and when librarian Kitt Hartley’s best friend Evie is accused of killing her ex -boyfriend, it is a radical event that demands everyone’s attention. Evie is an otherwise funny and peace -loving person, skilled at massage and living in a world of vintage clothes, furniture and car, not someone who would be associated with a complex and dramatic death. Kitt is a book addict who has great affection for her friend, and when she is approached in her workplace, the Vale of York University library, she is determined to do all she can to help Evie. Unfortunately this involves pushing the edge of friendly enquiries, and places her in situations which even she has not read about. This is the first in a series of novels featuring Kitt and begins her involvement with the crimes that beset even this tourist attraction city. Her attraction for Detective Inspector Malcolm Halloran is an added complication in an investigation that makes her reassess everything about her life.

This is a well -paced book that makes the most of its setting in a city which is readily recognizable from the descriptions throughout the novel. It also introduces characters who are memorable for all the right reasons, such as Grace the technical investigator who does a sharp line in impressions, and Ruby whose talent for having visions is everything to do with her nose for gossip. The real – life crimes that Kitt becomes involved in investigating are well plotted, with distracting clues and suspicious activities seemingly erupting all over the area.

It is a tricky day for the whole situation to begin, as before her cup of Lady Grey Kitt must sort out a student who seems determined to dismiss one of her strongly held beliefs, the importance of the Women’s Studies section of the library where she works. This is especially so as she is nursing a hangover from her previous evening of consoling her friend Evie on being abandoned by her boyfriend Owen. Not that Kitt is an expert on romantic relationships, as her boyfriend of several years had walked out on her ten years before. Nevertheless, it comes as a shock when a good -looking police inspector walks into the library to question her about Evie and her ex -boyfriend Owen Hall. Kitt is stunned to hear that Evie is already being questioned as she firmly believes her to be “the most well-meaning individual” she has ever met. When Evie can she asks Kitt to investigate unofficially, and a series of red herrings and dangerous situations seem to arise as Kitt begins to suspect that Halloran’s attractions may well be leading somewhere she is reluctant to return.

I really enjoyed this book of non -gory crime, where the clues and situations reflect a clever understanding of detection as a classic pursuit, one that the well read Kitt is familiar with despite the risks and real -life impact. It is full of well -drawn characters, and there are so many funny innuendos, especially from Evie despite her perilous circumstances. I also enjoyed Kitt’s conversations with Grace and Ruby, especially when trying to maintain enough order to satisfy the dislikable Michelle. I recommend this book as the start of a really enticing series and look forward to reading more Kitt Hartley Yorkshire mysteries.

A Body in the Bookshop by Helen Cox – A York based Mystery for Kitt Hartley and friends

A Body in the Bookshop: the perfect cosy thriller for book lovers (The Kitt  Hartley Yorkshire Mysteries 2) eBook: Cox, Helen: Kindle Store

In honour of all the Bookshops that can open today in England – especially independent shops – I thought I would remind everyone not to take them for granted…

A Body in the Bookshop by Helen Cox

Kitt Hartley is a librarian and loves books. She also loves bookshops, specifically those in her home city of York. So when the theft of some very valuable first editions from Bootham Bar Books comes to light, she is keen to find out what happened. To be fair she is more worried about DS Charlotte Banks, who has been accused of assaulting a suspect in the burglary at the bookshop. Kitt’s friend, Evie Bowes, is also worried about Charlotte or Charley, not least because she was so supportive when Evie found herself not only in trouble but also in danger a few months before. So when Kitt learns more about the case from her new boyfriend, DI Malcolm Halloran, she and Evie become thoroughly involved – especially when that help involves visiting bookshops!

This is an enjoyable and interesting mystery which involves lively and realistic dialogue and some familiar settings for those involved in buying books, though without this element of risk. The connection with Halloran is enough to give some police procedural background, but the investigative methods that Kitt and Evie use are not in any official guidance. The setting, of a wintery York, is described with the eye of a local writer who knows just how many bookshops there are to be investigated. Evie’s situation, of having obvious reminders of her recent traumatic experiences is dealt with sensitively, as well as her own discoveries throughout the novel. Although this is the second “Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mystery” I found it easy to enjoy this book as a standalone, as there is enough background to indicate the relationships that are central to the story.

The lively dialogue between the women is first demonstrated when Evie visits Kitt on a cold evening in December. While Halloran’s interruption is welcomed, the news he brings of Charley is a shock. Evie immediately resolves to go and find the woman who had helped her, and is shocked at the change in her usually confident friend. When she decides to investigate further, things get complicated. Kitt’s assistant at the library, Grace, gets involved in the investigation, and the drama increases when an unexpected death occurs. When the three women try to track down just what has happened, it involves several episodes of unusual detection, including a tour of all the bookshops in the city, which culminates in some potentially useful gossip as well as some sore feet for Evie from her trademark vintage shoes. A bus trip and a card reading also supply some details as a complex mystery emerges in which books and some bloodshed play their part.

This is a easy to read contemporary mystery which is well written and plotted. It gives a satisfactory amount of time to the realistic characters who feature in a case with a suitable number of red herrings and twists to maintain interest throughout. The setting is well realized, as a wintery York is the background to revelations of several kinds. I really enjoyed the depiction of Evie, with her vintage obsession and impulsive actions. This is a well handled contemporary murder mystery with some multi-layered characters and not too much gore in a realistic setting. I will certainly be keen to read other books in this series – murder mysteries with the human element.