Death on a Monday Night by Jo Allen
A Monday night has great significance in this complex and hugely enjoyable murder mystery – it is the Women’s Institute Meeting night in the village of Wasby in Cumbria. This contemporary and exciting novel is the eighth in the DCI Satterthwaite series, and although this is my first encounter with the detective and those he works with, it is so well written that I was able to pick up the gist of the situation quickly. WI meetings can be lively, and Wasby like many English villages are full of local gossip and scandal, but it comes as a total shock to everyone when Becca, district nurse and Jude Satterthwaite’s ex partner, discovers a dead body at the end of the evening.
This book turns out to be a fairly closed community mystery in the best traditions of British Crime writing, where the inhabitants of a single village and the surrounding area come under suspicion, and in living at the heart of the community, Jude is acquainted with some of the major players. There are backstories to be enjoyed when I can track down previous books in the series, but in the meantime this is a standalone and very enjoyable mystery in its own right. It is very scenic, and I would love to see a television adaptation! I found this a very readable book which was very entertaining, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
The setting for the murder is an old village hall with a complex (and typical in my experience) arrangement of doors, exits and entrances. The meeting features Adam Fleetwood, an apparently reformed drug dealer, speaking about his past misdeeds and redemption, and Geri Foster, head of a drug rehabilitation project. Becca is present at the meeting, but goes outside shortly after the proceedings end. She is joined by a surprising companion before the lights in the hall all go out, and Becca moves swiftly to find the fuse box. Her discovery of the body of Grace Thoresby deeply shocks her, despite her experience of police work which she gained while close to Jude. While officially a sudden death, the local police are quickly involved, in the form of Ashleigh who is on duty while Jude turns up because he is local. Interestingly a more senior officer, Faye, takes a detailed interest in the case, and the complex situation which draws in family, acquaintances and old enemies. A woman’s secret life seems somehow connected to the events of the evening, but also the hard facts of the shattered relationship between Jude and his childhood friend. As the net of investigation grows larger and there is a real risk of future danger in the close knit community, can Jude and his colleagues sort out the threads of confusion around a brutal death before more people are put at risk, despite the problems of finding an attacker in such tricky circumstances?
This is a very enjoyable and intriguing mystery which is well plotted and paced. It features characters who have real depth and reality, with their own issues and back stories which add a great deal to the overall narrative. This is a book that I greatly enjoyed and would genuinely recommend to those who enjoy crime mysteries set in a relatable community. I would be really pleased to discover more books in this series and by this accomplished author.