Title: A Spoonful of Murder
Author: J.M. Hall
Publisher: Avon GB/HarperCollins
Published: 15th June 2022
Synopsis: Introducing the three unlikeliest sleuths you’ll ever meet…
Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.
But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.
By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.
The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.
But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…
Sit down with a cup of tea and this perfectly witty, page-turning cosy crime novel. Fans of Agatha Christie, Death in Paradise and Midsomer Murders will be hooked from the very first page.
Pat, Liz, and Thelma are retired schoolteachers, and they’ve remained friends since, having regular catchups in between Pilates and other activities that fill their days. One week, they bump into an old, friend, Topsy Joy. Topsy hasn’t been doing too well, and a week later, Pat, Liz, and Thelma find out that Topsy is dead. Everything seems to point to a medical condition or accident, but soon, the three friends find themselves looking into Topsy’s murder – because everybody else is dismissing it as an accident, as the act of someone accidentally taking too much, or the wrong dosage of their medication. So it falls to Pat, Liz, and Thelma to find out what really happened to Topsy.
Cosy crime books are fun to read, centring the amateur detective or detectives as the heroes that solve the crime before the police. In this case, the three friends investigating the death of the fourth takes place in a quiet town, where they are caught between what they know, and the past, and the new threats and goings on. The quietly go about their lives which is what made Liz, Pat, and Thelma such interesting detectives – they could blend in and weren’t perfect. They didn’t know everything which I think worked well, as it allowed the characters to grow, but also show their flaws and illustrated that it was okay for them not to know everything they needed to know.
The setting of a small English village is quaint and suits the genre really well – as the small community allows for the story to evolve in one place, without the characters having to travel. It gives the impression of a closed room mystery, but without the tension of everyone being locked in the same room. They’re in the same community, able to leave, yet at the same time, family and connections and obligations have them tethered to this beloved community, where they never thought a crime such as murder could occur, though I did like the little nods to the fact that all crimes do not discriminate, and the women were prepared on the off chance that someone were to attack them. It was a reminder that what these women experienced when they were younger was in some ways different to how they experience the world now, and I liked that they were able to see how things had changed, even if they didn’t always understand the changes. It showed growth and development on their part, and I often think characters that others underestimate ensures the story will evolve as it needs to and sometimes in unexpected ways.
The mystery unfolded cleverly alongside the daily lives of Pat, Thelma, and Liz, and it was this technique that allowed the characters to go about solving the case in this way, because nobody would suspect them of interfering, as the police would put it. I enjoyed this book, as it allowed characters that might usually be invisible or on the peripheral to have a starring role, and I loved that Pat, Thelma, and Liz were also full of surprises that nobody would expect. What a fun crime novel! I hope people who pick it up enjoy it!