Thursday, August 8, 2019

“Murder at the Old Abbey” by Pippa McCathie

Fabia Havard is a former police superintendent now working as a full-time artist in southern Wales. Her former subordinate, Matt Lambert, still works for the police; he was instrumental in clearing Fabia’s name in a police corruption case. He’s seven years younger than she is, and the two are slowly (and rather irritably) falling in love.

Fabia lives near White Monk Abbey, the ancestral family home of the Mansell family. Octogenarian Caradoc Mansell dominates the family, always threatening to change his will. The estate is entailed, meaning it will go to the first-born son when Caradoc dies. But then there’s the contents of the house – paintings, antiques, silver, a stamp collection, and thoroughbred horses. A few small items have gone missing; the chief suspect is the brother of Caradoc’s daughter-in-law. 

A new family member arrives from the island of Mauritius via London. The young woman turns out to be Caradoc’s granddaughter, whose grandmother had been in love with Caradoc when he was stationed there with the Royal Army. The old man decides to change his will and signs the new will right before he’s found dead. It appears to be heart failure; it turns out to be murder. Fabia knows the family, and she begins to help Lambert with his investigation.

Pippa McCathie
Murder at the Old Abbey by Pippa McCathie is the second novel in the Lambert and Havard detective series. The first, Murder in the Valleys, was published in 2018. The mysteries are officially classified as “cozy,” a la Agatha Christie, but thery’re also solidly in the detective mystery class. 

McCathie was brought up in Mauritius, so she knows of what she writes. She’s published poetry and short stories, and two of her children were born in Wales. She currently lives on the island of Guernsey.

Murder at the Old Abbey is as much a romance as it is a mystery, and McCathie’s two detectives are as engaging with each other as they are with the crime. It’s a fun story, with criminal low-lifes, an old spooky mansion, an unexpected will, and nicely drawn suspects.

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