A compelling story of murder set in war-time Sussex
In this, the third instalment in the Bunch Courtney Investigates series, Bunch becomes a consulting detective with the local constabulary for the first time, and gets to work in an official capacity with the tantalising Inspector Wright, who has some mysterious work of his own to pursue.
We learn more about the milieu in which Bunch and her younger sister Dodo grew up; the background of the narrative is the interwar social whirl of the Bright Young Things, and the marriage mart in which young women from an aristocratic background come out into society and mingle with eligible bachelors. But there is a darker undertow to this world, a mixture of drug-addiction, cruelty and sexual obsession that contradicts the image of carefree hedonism.
The story starts with a car accident that turns out to be anything but, and a second body is soon discovered. Claude Naysmith, the crash victim, was a naval officer, and Penelope James, the second to die, also has a connection with the armed forces.
The narrative teases the reader with a number of different leads, motives and perpetrators for the crime. Once again there is a hint at possible right-wing sympathies amongst the group of suspects, who appear to be linked on more than one level.
It is deeply satisfying to follow Bunch and Inspector Wright as they work together – and sometimes at odds – to solve the case. At the same time, Bunch has to deal with the reluctant homecoming of her socialite mother, Theadora, who has been told by a Harley Street specialist that she must stop drinking or risk imminent death. Bunch, her father Sir Edward and her redoubtable paternal grandmother all try to support for the recalcitrant Theadora, who had never recovered from the loss of her two sons to the Spanish flu pandemic.
The war forms much more than a backdrop to the story. Bunch has to run the gauntlet of the blackout, the beginning of the Blitz and the crowded underground in London, where it seems attempts are made on her life. Once again, the details have been researched with great care and thought, giving a flavour of authenticity to the period setting sometimes missing from historical crime fiction. A date at the underground bar at the Cafe de Paris is haunted by the fate of that doomed venue.
The Sussex landscape and setting is evoked with love and a real feel for the sense of place. There is a thread of melancholy running through the story, with the losses of the current war and the last, and the deaths of the murder victims keenly felt. None of these people are mere ciphers, even those who appear in the narrative only as corpses.
Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. It has a compelling quality that meant I wanted to keep reading through to the end to discover whodunit – and why. I was not disappointed.
*Thank you to the author and Penkhull Press for this digital advance review copy. As always, my opinion is my own.*
Listed Dead will be released on 6th August 2020
About the author:
Jan Edwards is a winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize for Winter Downs, the first book in the Bunch Courtney Investigates Series. Jan was born in Sussex, currently living in North Staffordshire. In addition to being a writer she is also a Reiki Master.
Jan Edwards on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jan-Edwards/e/B009BAA3R0/
Jan’s blog page: https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/
Penkhull Press at: https://thepenkhullpress.wordpress.com/