Followers of this blog will notice that Helen Hollick is a relatively frequent guest. No wonder, as not only is Helen an author I admire (I am a bit obsessed with her 18th century pirate, Jesamiah Acorne) she is also a friend – one of those real friends who will, at times, be brutally honest but also be there to sweep up the pieces in the aftermath. She is also very generous with her time and advice when it comes to supporting other – and especially Indie – writers, so when I was asked if I’d be willing to participate in this tour, organised by fab Cathie Dunne of The Coffee Pot Book Club, my answer was a resounding YES!
When Helen first shared her desire to write a cosy mystery, I must admit I probably looked like a living question mark. Not only because the genre as such is, IMO, a rather odd combo of dire deeds and afternoon teas in sweet cottage settings, but also because she’s so good at writing the other, historical stuff. But as I am all for stepping outside the confinements of one genre – I more or less hopscotch back and forth over genre contrictions in every book I write – I offered to read, review and spread teh word once amateur sleuth Jan was ready to face the world. I quickly discovered I really enjoyed Helen’s take on cosy mysteries, very much because she so effortlessly sets it in a time which is now historical – the early 1970s. ( And yes, it is somewhat weird to have Jan mention things I remember from my childhood and realise they are, in fact, historical details . . .). A Mistake of Murder is the third book in the series, and you can find my review a bit further down. Did I enjoy it? Oh, yes!
The third Jan Christopher Cosy Mystery
Was murder deliberate – or a tragic mistake?
January 1972. The Christmas and New Year holiday is over and it is time to go back to work. Newly engaged to Detective Sergeant Laurence Walker, library assistant Jan Christopher is eager to show everyone her diamond ring, and goes off on her scheduled round to deliver library books to the housebound – some of whom she likes; some, she doesn’t.
She encounters a cat in a cupboard, drinks several cups of tea… and loses her ring.
When two murders are committed, can Jan help her policeman uncle, DCI Toby Christopher and her fiancé, Laurie, discover whether murder was a deliberate deed – or a tragic mistake?
There are cosy mysteries and there are not-so-cosy cosy mysteries. Ms Hollick deffo delivers the latter, in that the crimes committed (foul murder, no less) are pretty grim—and described as such. This being the third book in Ms Hollick’s series featuring Jan Christopher, her uncle DCI Toby Christopher, her delightful and resilient aunt Madge and DS Laurie Walker, a young Cary Grant look-a-like who combines an attractive exterior with integrity and a developed sense of duty, I am by now more than familiar with the central cast. Jan grows from book to book, and the way she speaks directly to the reader is not only endearing but also engaging. As Jan comments on this and that, she paints a picture of life as it was in the 1970s, at times with quite the sardonic wit.
Central to the plot is the library at which Jan works. She is not exactly expecting her work to bring her into such close proximity with cruel death, but our poor Jan is to be a relevant witness in not one, but two heinous deeds.
Ms Hollick delivers a well-developed plot, with several twists and turns. Jan’s recent engagement (to Laurie, thank God!) and her doubts about it – she knows far too well what life can be like for a policeman’s wife—adds emotional depth to the narrative, as do the briefly told backstories of various characters.
A snappy prose coupled with great descriptive writing, a gripping plot and a very likeable protagonist makes A Mistake of Murder into a most entertaining and well-written read. It may not be cosy-cosy, but personally, I think the edge Ms Hollick adds to the genre enhances it.
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Universal Link: https://mybook.to/MISTAKEofMURDER
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0BRNRRDFG/
First accepted for traditional publication in 1993, Helen became a USA Today Bestseller with her historical novel, The Forever Queen (titled A Hollow Crown in the UK) with the sequel, Harold the King (US: I Am The Chosen King) being novels that explore the events that led to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Her Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy is a fifth-century version of the Arthurian legend, and she writes a nautical adventure/fantasy series, The Sea Witch Voyages. She has also branched out into the quick read novella, ‘Cosy Mystery’ genre with her Jan Christopher Murder Mysteries, set in the 1970s, with the first in the series, A Mirror Murder incorporating her, often hilarious, memories of working as a library assistant.
Her non-fiction books are Pirates: Truth and Tales and Life of A Smuggler. She lives with her family in an eighteenth-century farmhouse in North Devon, England, and occasionally gets time to write…
Social Media Links:
Facebook Australian Readers’ Page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/244396568906388
Amazon Author Page: https://viewauthor.at/HelenHollick