Murder At The Old Vicarage by Jill McGown

Murder At The Old VicarageIt’s Christmas! Hurrah! Well, not so much if you’re a vicar who’s doubting his calling – due, in part, to not believing in God. And also fancying the woman down the road a bit too much. But as George Wheeler writes his Christmas message, a shadow is about to descend on the house in the form of his son-in-law. George’s daughter has recently separated from this deeply unpleasant individual and both George and his wife are concerned that she is going to forgive his violence again. But somebody puts a stop to that, with the aid of a poker about the head…

Detective Inspector Lloyd, no forename (hey, that sounds familiar!) and Detective Sergeant Judy Hill are trying to work out their own relationship, or lack thereof, so a nice juicy murder case in a snowbound village would seem to be a perfect distraction. But with a dearth of suspects – four, at a stretch, unless a passing tramp happened along – all of whom seem to have alibis, can they find a murderer before they have to confront their feelings for each other?

Thanks to Bello Books for the review copy – the entire Lloyd and Hill series has been reissued by them, but this one has a lovely Christmassy cover. And it’s the third of my last four reviews to feature bucket-loads of snow! How jolly…

I wonder – is there a mystery novel set at Christmas that actually gives the reader a warm Christmassy feeling? Because that’s the only real niggle that I have with this one. Yes, it’s set at Christmas, and we’ve got snow and a vicar, but it doesn’t really feel that Christmassy. Well, apart from the constantly arguing family, of course…

But I digress because that’s the only niggle that I had with it. In many ways, this combines the best of all worlds. It’s a police procedural, with interesting characters and – most notably – a proper mystery plot. And it’s a rather clever one at that. Being able to successfully manage a whodunit with only four suspects takes a clever plotter and Jill McGown was certainly that. This is an impressive piece of work all round. Lloyd and Hill’s relationship is believable – although he gets a bit shouty at times – and doesn’t detract from the main narrative at all. The central characters are fully rounded humans, complete with failings, and yet the narrative never gets bogged down with this aspect.

I read one or two of the books from this series a long time ago and remember being impressed with the author’s ability to present a well-constructed whodunit in the modern style and I’m very pleased to say that the memory didn’t cheat on this occasion. A great read with a rewarding puzzle, needless to say, this is Highly Recommended. And there will be more from Lloyd and Hill soon on the blog.

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10 comments

  1. Thanks for the review, and it’s encouraging to hear that there are modern police procedurals that come together with a proper mystery plot. I’ve just finished another entry to Ann Cleeve’s Inspector Ramsay series, and while I definitely enjoyed reading about Ramsay and following him around, I would have liked a stronger sense of puzzle to the story.

    Regarding Jill McGown – which were the other two titles you’ve read? Would you recommend this particular title as a starting point?

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    • It was so long ago, I honestly have no idea which ones – sorry. This is book two – see Sergio’s comment for a link to a review of Book One, A Perfect Match, but it didn’t feel like I’d missed anything…

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  2. I have read more Christmas mysteries in the last couple of years, and I haven’t run into any that have real Christmassy feel. I enjoy them still though.

    I read this book recently — a re-read really — and enjoyed it a lot. I even located and purchased a hardback edition from when it was first published because it had such a great cover, which I hope to remember to feature on my blog soon. This is a very nice cover too.

    The only other one by McGown that I read recently was Plots and Errors, and I loved that one.

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