In the Market for Murder by T E Kinsey
Lady Hardcastle and her companion Florence return for a new story of murder, crime and very funny dialogue set in Spring, 1909. Flo recounts a story of country life at its least quiet, as a suspicious death suggests foul play, a theft in a rugby club and a dodgy seance. This second book reintroduces a pair of amateur sleuths who involve themselves in cases where the local police fear to tread. Although the second in a series, it can be read as a standalone with ease once the unique relationship between the women is understood – a Lady and her companion or servant have been through a lot together in foreign climes, now they have moved to a large house in the country for a quiet life which they have not quite achieved. Their adventures, faithfully recorded by Florence who grew up in a circus and who therefore has a surprising set of skills, take place in an area where their friend, police Inspector Sunderland has warned them that an unusually large number of murders occur. Aided and abetted by their friends Lord and Lady Farley-Stroud, Bert the punctual driver and Daisy the barmaid among others, their investigations are regarded as innovative, with a crime board and the acquisition of transport. An exciting and funny novel emerges when the plot sometimes takes second place to the lively discussions between the main characters, and the forces of crime and deceit do their worst in the English countryside.
The novel begins with the signs of a full recovery from injury by Lady Emily Hardcastle from injuries suffered in the previous years. Florence is so pleased to have her friend restored to health, even if she is a bit dubious of taking a walk in the country where there may be “Cows. Big beasts. Unruly.Dangerous.”. Emily promises to protect her “tiny servant”, her usual endearment for Flo, “with the Cow – Nobbling Stick of Doom.” or her walking cane. Florence retorts with “You may very well mock, my lady…But–” “May I? Oh, you’re so sweet. I shall.”. This is the sort of exchange that appears throughout the book, as affection and mutual respect is expressed in very amusing dialogue. When Lady Farley-Stroud invites Emily and Flo to a market in a country town, Flo lays aside her fears of farm animals as the pair are introduced to the local characters, including many farmers with local adjoining properties. A week later one of the farmers falls face forward into his meat pie in the public house, and Emily and Flo decide to use their considerable abilities to subtly investigate. Meanwhile a drunken evening with Hector ends in an apparent break in with some convenient clues. When a gathering in the local pub seems to result in the appearance of an accusing ghost, the whole sequence of events seem to suggest there is a lot going on in the area.
This is a well written book which uses comedy and other unusual elements to create a very entertaining crime based novel that definitely tends to the “cosy” type. Kinsey has created characters and a situation to revel in, while picking up on the understated historical context. I really enjoy the “Lay Hardcastle Mysteries” and recommend them to anyone who is looking for a gentle and well written series.