Available from Alfie Dog Fiction here. This is a repeat of a review I’ve posted on Goodreads and Amazon, as a member of the Reading Panel for Alfie Dog Fiction.
Caroline rents a Riverbank Cottage in a Sussex village with no thought of ‘getting involved’ with the neighbours. On the run from an abusive husband, Caroline just wants to get on with writing her erotic novels, but, as everybody in the village rushes to tell her, many years ago A Murder took place in Riverside Cottage – in the kitchen with a knife. No one had been convicted of the crime, nor was there anyone with an obvious motive. Some people think it must be the victim’s husband, others her rather fit son, Toby… or any number of other people. Oh, and by the way, the little house is haunted, although this turns out to be more of a plumbing issue.
When Caroline discovers that her erotic novels are not selling as well as before, she considers writing a book about the Riverside Cottage murders. However, as soon as she announces this intention, the village clams up on her, poison pen letters plop on to her doormat and her agent refuses to continue to represent her. Caroline, however, soldiers on with her combined sleuthing cum novel research, with the help of her good-natured and indefatigable neighbour, Maggie Clements. The story ends with a twist that I certainly didn’t anticipate, but, like all the best twists, hints, which the reader only recognises after the reveal, were dropped earlier in the text.
Caroline herself was a companionable sort of main character, although not particularly distinctive. Susan might have developed a point she made early on, that Caroline was actually quite ‘straitlaced’, unsuited to writing erotica, and what brought her into this genre. She might also have made more of the abusive husband; the reader is told repeatedly that Caroline is terrified of him finding her, but, when he does appear, he is despatched very quickly, and not mentioned again. The most effective character in the book is the neighbour, Maggie Clements, locked in a dysfunctional marriage, fat, slovenly, and obsessed with her two enormous dogs. Kind and obviously fond of mc, she also takes advantage of Caroline. Maggie’s reaction, when she finds out what her husband is really getting up to, is from the gut and totally believable, but she moves on, with the help of Caroline and others.
What I did not include on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews was that this novel was what kept me going during one of the most demanding and exhausting periods of my working life. As you will have become aware, Dear Reader, I have not done ANY writing at all over the last few months, except for occasional blog posts here. Never believe it when people tell you that teachers get long holidays and generally don’t do anything. Last weekend, I marked ALL weekend, except for a few hours when my husband dragged me away for a drive out in the country and a cream tea. This week, I have marked every evening and all day Saturday. I am still not out of the heat yet. When I return to college tomorrow morning, I will once again find myself rushing around marking, organising students and speaking to/emailing parents whose kids are suffering understandable mental stress caused by an extremely poorly designed and managed qualification (by the awarding body, not our college). I am so tired I don’t feel like writing at all. I have to get this lot sorted out by 15 July, when I go on leave. Many of you are having successes, with stories placed and published. Well done, all of you. I long to be up there with you.