“It’s such a civilized world; books, libraries, tea and cakes. How can it possibly also be a place where you can be murdered for the sake of a few words?”
DS Harbinder Kaur is thirty-six years old, gay, and works with the Sussex Police. She still lives at home with her Sikh parents because she enjoys her mother’s Indian cooking and her father’s doting attention, though she spends most of her time at work so that she won’t be roped into serving at her parent’s convenience store. Harbinder has kept her sexual preferences a secret from her parents, so they still expect her to settle down with a man and get married. She is extremely intelligent and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Her thoughts (and sometimes her words) are filled with scathing, though humourous sarcasm.
DS Neil Winston – is DS Harbinder Kaur’s ‘work-husband’. He is her partner and second in command. Harbinder imagines him to be a woodland animal when he is testing her patience. Her resultant thoughts are hilarious to read.
Peggy Smith – a ninety-year old woman who lives in Seaview Court, for the elderly. She is relatively healthy for her age and her mind is as sharp as a tack. She adores crime fiction, and her apartment is filled with tomes of current and classic mystery books. Curiously, the majority of them mention Peggy in either the dedication, or the acknowledgements…
Natalka Kolisnyk – An attractive Ukrainian woman who works as low paid ‘carer’ for the elderly and disabled by day, and trades cryptocurrency by night – enough to have made her wealthy (though she lives in a bedsit in another family’s house).
Benedict Cole (Benny) – is the thirty-something owner of the coffee shack on the beach. An ex-priest, and an ex-monk, Benny is still assimilating into ‘normal’ life. He doesn’t have many friends, is a diligent worker, rather socially awkward, and loves to read. He left religious life because he wants to fall in love with a woman and get married.
Edwin Fitzgerald – is the octogenarian neighbour of Peggy Smith and lives across the hall from her apartment at Seaview Court. He was a good friend of Peggy’s and also frequents Benny’s coffee shack daily. He has never had a long-term relationship because back in his day being gay was actually illegal. He is retired from the BBC.
I have long been a fan of Elly Griffiths – in particular her fabulous Ruth Galloway mystery series. Back in December of 2018 I read “The Stranger Diaries“. At the time it was touted as being a stand-alone. I loved the protagonist DS Harbinder Kaur so much that I wished then that her character would be brought back in another book. My wish came true!
DS Harbinder Kaur is a petite, though fierce, young policewoman, and a force to be reckoned with. Her character is written with empathy and humour. This time out she is accompanied by a diverse assortment of somewhat quirky characters.
The dual settings of seaside Sussex and Aberdeen, Scotland were well described.
The plot was interesting and read like a successful combination of serious crime fiction and cozy, at times almost farcical mystery.
It is the brilliant characterization coupled with the humour that makes this series special for me. I will eagerly read the next installment when the opportunity arises.
Overall, I found this novel to be an intelligently written, literary murder mystery with an outstanding cast of well-developed characters. A ‘whodunit’ rife with cryptic clues.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via NetGalley.
Elly Griffiths is the pen name of Domenica de Rosa. She was born in London and now lives with her husband, two children and cat in East Sussex. Elly is the author of the popular Ruth Galloway mystery series and the Stephens and Mephisto novels. She read English at King’s College London and, after graduating, worked in a library, for a magazine and then as a publicity assistant at HarperCollins. All this completely put her off writing and it wasn’t until she was on maternity leave in 1998 that she wrote what would become her first published novel, The Italian Quarter.
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