Two perfectly cozy, utterly charming English village mysteries

Books


Who doesn’t love a pretty village? In these two debut mysteries, rolling countryside, cobbled streets and grand medieval manors create perfectly pastoral backdrops for murder most foul. 

The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder

Freya Lockwood is at loose ends: Her ex-husband is forcing the sale of their London home; their daughter, Jade, has left for university; and it’s been years since Freya’s been enthused about anything aside from motherhood. 

She once worked as an antiques hunter alongside her mentor, the debonair and wickedly intelligent Arthur Crockleford. They returned stolen antiquities to their rightful owners, a pursuit both exhilarating and fulfilling. But after a trip to Cairo ended terribly, Freya cut contact. She hasn’t spoken to Arthur or returned to her hometown of Little Meddington in the 20 years since.

As C.L. Miller’s The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder opens, Freya’s beloved and fabulous Aunt Carole calls with news of Arthur. He’s been found dead in his Little Meddington shop, and Carole’s convinced he’s been murdered. To add to the emotional upheaval, Arthur left Freya a letter imploring her to find the culprit using cryptic clues he’s set out for her.

The quest begins at an antiques enthusiasts’ weekend at nearby Copthorn Manor. The ivy-covered mansion is set on beautiful grounds, but inside the house, things are far from pretty. The shifty cast of characters present is filled with likely suspects, all of whom are ill-mannered at best and dangerous at worst. Can Freya and Carole untangle the deadly connections between past and present before the killer strikes again?

Miller adds authenticity by name-checking real antiques with help from her late mother, the author and “Antiques Roadshow” expert Judith Miller. Readers will enjoy following the trail of clues alongside Freya and Carole, who must also contend with their conflicting feelings about Arthur. This series kickoff capably combines a treasure hunt, a murder mystery and complex relationship dynamics, and is sure to keep readers curious and engaged, while perhaps pining for their own special antique, too.

How to Solve Your Own Murder

Kristen Perrin’s How to Solve Your Own Murder also centers on amateur sleuths who are aunt and niece. Although in this lively, twisty tale, Great-Aunt Frances is the recently deceased victim, found in the library of her stately mansion in the village of Castle Knoll.

Her 25-year-old great-niece and aspiring mystery novelist, Annie, is present for this sad discovery, being one of the family members and advisors Frances summoned to Gravesdown Hall to discuss her will. But while Frances’ demise is a terrible shock to the group, it wouldn’t have surprised Frances herself: In 1965, a fortuneteller told the then-teenager, “All signs point toward your murder,” and she’s been trying to preemptively solve her own murder ever since.

Castle Knoll residents have long scoffed at Frances’ belief in the prophecy, and bristled at her investigations of their foibles and indiscretions—all of which are detailed on a floor-to-ceiling murder board. That board will come in handy, since Frances left Annie and the other guests at Gravesdown an assignment: Whoever solves Frances’ murder within the week will be the sole heir to her money and property. If the police crack the case first, the estate will be turned over to real estate developers, thus destroying the charm of the village filled with those who doubted Frances.

Those drawn into Frances’ game include Saxon, her nephew and the village coroner; handsome and enigmatic Detective Crane; and Walter, her lawyer and friend. There are secrets and conflicts of interest galore, plus multiple ways to access Gravesdown Hall undetected, making for an absolute pile of red herrings. And while Castle Knoll is “like a picture on a biscuit tin,” there’s plenty of ill intent roiling beneath its delightful surface. Can Annie stay safe and find the murderer before week’s end? 

Perrin juggles characters and clues with aplomb, sketching in the past via teen Frances’ journals and immersing readers in the present through Annie’s determined, good-hearted point of view. Readers will root for her as she gains hard-won confidence in this entertaining exploration of family secrets.



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