In Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott, Beryl Helliwell seeks adventure all over the world in the 1920s. Brash, impulsive, and outspoken, she’s become famous as newspapers cover her exploits. “Beryl had a great deal of experience with people in the throes of shock. It tended to happen to others at an alarming rate when she was in the vicinity.”
But she has become bored and restless. After a while “one camel caravan is very much like another.” Finding an ad for a room to rent in the small English village of Walmsley Parva, Beryl decides to take a break and rest a while.
Edwina Davenport has been a quiet pillar in Walmsley Parva for decades, but the economy after WWI has greatly reduced her resources. When she decides to rent a room, she’s delighted when her old school chum, Beryl, asks to rent it. As the two get reacquainted, Edwina admits that she’s embarrassed to go into the village and face scrutiny and gossip because of her financial constraints. Beryl takes it upon herself to help out: she tells the chief rumormonger in town that she and Edwina are secret agents, and “Ed’s” seemingly reduced circumstances are just a front.
Edwina’s dismay at Beryl’s storytelling morphs into deep concern after someone makes an attempt on Edwina’s life in her own back yard. Who in sleepy little Walmsley Parva would have a secret that they don’t want investigated?
I had not heard of this book or author until I was sorting through a 2-for-1 sale at Audible. I had found one book I wanted, but couldn’t find another among the sale items. Then I saw this title. Normally I am wary of modern fiction, because usually it contains bad language or sexual scenes. But I perused a few reviews that said this was a clean story, so I took a chance on it.
As a “cozy mystery,” it’s a lot of fun. Well, except for a murder investigation and several sad tales connected with it. But Beryl and Edwina play well off each other. The story has a cast of distinctive characters. It dragged just a bit for me in the middle as the two women interviewed several people, but as the clues unfolded, the mystery came together satisfactorily. The ending left the possibility open for more Beryl and Edwina stories, and I found that a sequel has been written. The two have good potential for a running series.
I don’t recall that there was any bad language except Beryl uses one word as an idiom which I didn’t understand. Edwina didn’t, either, but her sensibilities were “shocked.” (I wasn’t about to look it up…). Besides that one incident, and the mention of a man having “octopus hands,” the book is clean. Someone is found to have had an adulterous relationship, but nothing explicit is discussed or shown. Beryl does have a penchant for alcohol and divorce.
I saw some reviews criticizing the narrator of the audiobook, Barbara Rosenblat, for some odd hesitations. But I did not find them distracting and thought she did a great job.
Overall I thought it an enjoyable story.