Whilst I hadn’t read the previous two Shire Mysteries by Anna Legat, I needn’t have worried. From chapter one, I was immersed in the village way of life, got to know sleuthing duo, Sam and Maggie, and slipped right into the action.
This was a typical, yet enjoyable, cosy mystery – the quaint countryside location of Bishops Well, busy-bodying villagers and a couple of murders – but with the welcome addition of a ghost or two! Crime mixed in with the supernatural…what more could I ask for?
The story starts with Maggie Kaye and the Bishops Well Archeological Association in the midst of ‘vandalising’ the meadows, the pride of the village. The villagers are acting (rashly, some may say) in the hopes of stopping unwelcome local land development – a testy subject for any village, and as expected, there is a lot of money to be made from the lucrative sale. When a village meeting about the development turns sour, with secrets and personal vendettas emerging, one of the locals soon gets bumped off in dramatic fashion, and the Shire’s sleuthing duo, Maggie and Sam, can’t help but get involved.
The story is written in both third person and first person. When told in first person, we hear the voice of Maggie; from her point of view, you really do get to understand her as a character and these were my favourite parts of the story. Headstrong, but with her heart on her sleeve, Maggie can be impulsive and make some very silly decisions in her hope of solving the murders, but all is done with the best intentions. She does not like injustice and will stop at nothing to expose the truth. I really liked how she often butted heads with other characters – putting her foot in it and rubbing them up the wrong way, she didn’t hesitate risking getting into trouble, dabbling in potentially illegal undercover actions in her search for the truth.
Her sleuthing counterpart and legal expert, Sam Dee, however, is a nice balance in character – sensible and logical, he helps to reign Maggie in with his calming influence. As the story develops, the relationship between them subtley grows, which is a nice touch and adds to the character development. The addition of these extra elements, helps to humanise the characters and makes them more three-dimentional.
Whilst at first Cause of Death seems like your typical cosy mystery, I suddenly came to realise that Maggie, has an added talent – the ability to see ghosts. This will have been apparent in the previous two Shire Mysteries I’m sure, but as I was new to the series, it was a little confusing to begin with. However, once I understood what was happening, I really liked the added element and it helped the story to stand out from other cosy mysteries I had previously read – the presence of the ghosts both helps and hinders Maggie during the story. The ghosts added, at times, an element of humour, whilst at others, a moment of sadness – what must it feel like to be a voiceless entity trapped on Earth with unfinished business? Thank goodness Maggie is there to assist.
Alongside the murder linked to the land development, Sam also ends up investigating the death of his wife – I particularly enjoyed this part of the story, a more thought provoking and emotional death, as it added to the complexity of Sam and Maggie’s relationship (Sam is torn between his dead wife, present in ghost-form, and potential new flame, Maggie). I enjoyed the reveal at the end of the murder linked to the land development and also the reveal of what happened to Sam’s wife, and in both cases I was not able to figure out what had happened before the climax.
At times I could not remember who all the villagers were, as there are many who do not get fleshed out, and I needed to flip back and remind myself. That being said the murder plot is nicely complex and interesting, containing enough clues (and red herrings) to keep the reader entertained. With the driving force of Maggie and Sam’s investigation, I was enjoyably carried along for the ride. This story was fast-paced and unpredictable, with a little bit of humour thrown in – a solid cosy mystery with the addition of a ghost or two!
From the blurb…
About the Author…
Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series. Murder isn’t the only thing on her mind however, as she dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from dark humorous comedy, through magic realism to dystopian. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories.