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My Observations: • It’s a small book (268 pages) and has a steady pace throughout. Moreover, it reads well as a standalone (and there isn’t too much information dump about the previous books). • The writing in this one felt a little different (I found way too many adverbs), though the tone hasn’t changed. • The characters are pretty much black and white. If you want layered and complex characters, this is not the book. But if you want something that adheres to the cozy mystery checklist, pick this book. • The descriptions of places in Cornwall were beautiful. I enjoyed the scenic beauty of the locations. • The mystery is neither strong nor weak. I guessed the killer more on instinct, though the clues confirmed my guess soon enough. • There are no unexpected twists, no melodrama, or heavy stuff. There’s some progress in the personal track, but it’s limited to one character. • The book ends with a sort of bait to keep the reader guessing about what the next book will be about, which I rather liked. The current case is complete, and the new one will start fresh in the next one. To Sum up, Murder at Primrose Cottage is a good continuation of the series and works well as a breather between heavy reads. Pick it up if you want a cozy mystery that doesn’t require too much effort to read. Thank you, NetGalley and Bookouture, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Murder in Primrose Cottage is the third in the Flora Steele series of cosy mysteries by Merryn Allingham, which I have been following from the start. While this can be read as a standalone as the mystery is complete and we get enough background on the characters to follow their story as well, there are spoilers in terms of the victims in the previous books.
The series, set in 1950s England follows twenty-five-year-old Flora Steele who runs a bookshop which she inherited from her aunt, in the small Sussex village of Abbeymead. Also living in the village is Jack Carrington, a former reporter, and now writer of mystery novels, who is a recluse but emerges in the first book (and discovers a body) when his errand boy falls ill. The two have become good friends (and partners in solving crime) but while they are interested in each other, they don’t wish to take things further just yet, because of past heartbreaks. At the end of the previous book, Flora who hasn’t taken a holiday in ages had decided to accompany Jack to Cornwall where he is to do research for the first of a series of books he has undertaken to write. There they are to rent Primrose cottage, arrangements for which have been made by Jack’s agent.
They arrive at the cottage and meet Roger Gifford, their landlord who also lends them his housekeeper, Jessie Bolitho who is to keep house and cook for them. But the next morning when Flora goes out to explore the orchard behind the cottage, she finds Roger’s body, his throat slit. While Roger was generally a well-liked man, there were some who bore him grudges—his estranged wife and younger wastrel brother among them; also according to Jessie, he had an argument with the local ‘witch’ or peller Mercy Dearlove. The police have found Roger’s broken watch so believe it to be the work of a mugger, but Flora thinks otherwise. Meanwhile Flora and Jack also begin to visit different places in Cornwall, both of historical interest and those related to the war (which was more recent past in terms of when our book is set) in search of locations and background for Jack’s book, while he also deals with writer’s block of sorts, scrapping plots and tearing things up. But their trips and investigations into Roger’s death are clearly making the murderer nervous for they get targeted repeatedly. Will they manage to identify the killer before he gets them?
This was a fun instalment in this series, and I think my favourite of the books so far. What I loved about this book the most was its setting and the war background. The setting in Cornwall comes through really well in the book with all the locations that they explore including Helston where Flora Day is celebrated every year (a spring festival); Tintagel and its Arthurian Castle; Henry the VII’s Pendennis Castle and the Lizard (and also the numerous pasties they eat; Jessie provides some delicious fare as well). I also kept looking up these sites online as I was reading. Then, there was also the historical background of the war and Signals units in Cornwall to which part of their mystery relates, a part which also links back to Flora’s village (not a spoiler since we know this from the start). I enjoyed exploring Cornwall with Flora and Jack, and also learning about its role in the war, about which like Flora and Jack I didn’t know much (or rather anything).
The mystery itself was interesting, but more than suspects (which we do have a handful), it is the motivations that keep one guessing—is it something to do with Roger’s personal life and problems or his research (which focused on the war efforts in Cornwall); once one makes up one’s mind as to that though, then the whodunit wasn’t so much of a surprise since we did get hints, and one is able to somewhat work out what happened (though not all). But nonetheless, it was fun reading and seeing if one was thinking correctly.
Flora and Jack are likeable characters, and in this book, we get more of a look into Jack’s past—his estrangement with his parents—as we meet his father. The police I am beginning to accept in this series, as being the kind that only appears at the last minute, and invariably is on the wrong track in solving the murders they are faced with. Back in Abbeymead too there are some developments which connect up with events of the past books, and the effects of which I think we will see in subsequent books, as we have a new character introduced in the form of Sally, the niece of Alice who was cook at the Priory (the manor-house-turned-hotel). There was also a fun reference to Enid Blyton, the second time one has come up in this series which I enjoyed being a fan of Blyton.
A fun read overall, in which I very much enjoyed the setting and historical background.
3.9 stars rounded up to 4.
(review copy received from Bookouture via NetGalley)
…a bit short on “real” Cornwall, I thought. The bunkers could have been anywhere, so could the cottage. But, at least the author didn’t have the occupants speaking ‘Mummerset’ as so many authors do! The witch was wonderful - I wouldn’t mind her appearing again. The tension between the two protagonists is real, believable - and not too much (I loathe it when characters bicker throughout most of a book…) The murderer had a reason for it, one most people could understand - and I love ‘cozy’ writers who point out that the death penalty *will* be applied. My favourite bit was all the money (apart from some for Jessie) went to a Dog’s Home! I am sort of pleased Jack gave up travelling - but only because, so far, I prefer Books 1 & 2 to Book 3. Should he travel to somewhere I know and the author does it well, I will probably get enthusiastic! If they return to Cornwall and the witch gets involved - I would!
Bookseller Flora Steele and writer Jack Carrington are having a holiday in Cornwall, while Jack does some research for his new book, to be set there. Naturally, Flora stumbles across a body almost as soon as they arrive; it is the corpse of the man who has rented Primrose Cottage to them, a retired bank manager whose passion was researching events in wartime Cornwall. It seems there are any number of suspects, including a wastrel brother and an estranged wife, but perhaps the crime is rooted further back in the past…. This is the third Flora Steele cozy, set in the mid-1950s and advancing the relationship between our two main characters, although the incipient romance is still being held at bay. I’m enjoying these books, which have a nice sense of character and of place and time, although I have a major quarrel with this particular book - sure, English people think of Cornwall as an English *county*, but true Cornish people like me know it’s actually a separate *country*! So I had to mentally add an “r” into the word every time the author mentioned it….Recommended, but start with Book 1 (“The Bookshop Murder”).
Cornwall in the 1950s is a beautiful county with wild moors, stunning beaches, and friendly locals. At least that's what Flora Steele and Jack Carrington thought as they began a working holiday to fulfil a writing assignment many miles away from their home village of Abbeymead. The countryside is as both imagined but finding a body in the orchard of the rented picturesque Primrose Cottage makes them look closely at their new neighbours.
With Jack needing to travel the county to gain a realistic background for his troublesome new novel Flora finds herself in a position to investigate why the victim met their unenviable fate. Both are intrigued by the tentative links to a wartime mystery but as danger stalks them through the narrow lanes and deserted landscape can they discover who is planning to add them to the list of victims and why?
This is the third Flora Steele novel and although I have enjoyed the previous two this is the one which moves it into the ranks of eagerly anticipated cosy crime series. Set in Cornwall during the late spring of 1956 it is an atmospheric and beautifully written piece that I enjoyed thoroughly. Jack and Flora are familiar enough now to reader and writer alike that they boss a storyline which was fascinating both from a fictional and factual standpoint. I hadn't realised how vital Cornwall was to the war effort and found the research included by the author as fascinating as Jack!
I was able to read an advanced copy of this book thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the opinions expressed are my own. This is a lovely book but with a few spoilers included I would recommend enjoying the first two as well if you can.
Another great read!!! Always details of the people and the adventures. You are right there trying to decide who did it and why. The dangers trouble these two get in to. But the adventures take you right there with them! I can wait to start ready book 4. Will they become closer to each other?