Title: The Winter Mystery (Jenny Starling Mystery #2)
Author: Faith Martin
Published on: 17th December 2018
Genre: Crime and Mystery
This is the second book in the Jenny Starling series by Faith Martin. Jenny Starling is a Junoesque traveling cook. And wherever she goes, she seems to come across a murder or two.
Christmas is not far away and Jenny doesn’t want to spend it alone in her tiny little room. She responds to an advertisement posted by one, Stanley Kelton. Stanley wants a cook for two weeks, after all, it is Christmas and there are a lot of delicacies to be prepared. Jenny jumps at the chance, who doesn’t want to spend Christmas in a farm, surrounded by snow, farm animals and people! As Jenny walks to the farm (the knee-deep snow makes it impossible for her to bring her van), she meets a villager who warns her of Stanley and his ‘rude behavior’. But it is too late to go back and the snow doesn’t seem to take a break!
As Jenny enters the house, she’s surrounded by a shadow of gloom. Only Sidney Kelton seems to be a tad cheerful. Stanley is, as the villager described, rude and has a gets-what-he-wants attitude. His three kids, Bert (the eldest), Bill and Delia have no saying in anything whatsoever. Bert has a teen-aged son, Jeremy. Stan’s tactics made Janice, Bert’s wife leave him for good. With all this negativity in the air, Jenny is welcomed by a vile gander and a friendly dog.
On Christmas eve, Jenny finds one of the housemates dead in the kitchen! With inches of snow outside, it is pretty clear that one of the housemates must have committed the murder. Sergeant Ford and Inspector Moulton are assigned to solve this case. This being their first homicide and having heard a lot about Jenny Starling and her mystery-solving abilities, the police are not shy to ask her help.
The Winter Mystery was a tad different from the other two Jenny Starling mysteries – namely, The Birthday Mystery and The Riverboat Mystery, that I have read so far. The setting is just perfect for Christmas. Snow, mince pies, baked goose, roast potatoes, and Christmas cake. The only thing that seemed missing in the Kelton farm was the Christmas Spirit. The weather brought about a gloomy mood and with the Kelton farm, the gloom seemed to hang around like a cloud that is about to burst any minute now.
Might not be a perfect Christmas for the Keltons but things do same to change before the year ends! Aye! While the other two stories are set in a cheery atmosphere and there is a lot of stuff going on, in this book, Jenny was mostly confined to the house, except for once or twice -she visits the village to phone the police and then a few days later, the pub, to dig some information (read gossip). The Kelton men seem to get on her nerves. With their coming and going with their muddy boots on, Jenny has to mop the kitchen floor every now and then! Sigh!
The plot was really interesting. Who would want to murder an innocent-looking man and why? He was loved by one and all, unlike the other Kelton who had nothing but snake venom in his words! No red herrings here and Jenny feels that there is something that she’s missing. Tiny information, something that she observed on the day of the murder, and it has now lodged itself in the corner of her memory, refusing to appear when needed.
A family rule that has been observed for generations – the eldest gets the farm. Did this have something to do with the murder? I really liked this concept. Jenny’s light-bulb moment was appreciable. Unlike the other stories, I did not feel that Jenny did a lot of sleuthing. Plus, halfway through the book, some of the clues were kinda obvious. The story also inclined a tad towards how men still claim to have an upper-hand in the society – not willing to remove muddy boots before entering the kitchen; Delia, being the only woman in the house has to do the cooking (unpaid job); Delia not given any allowance and forced to be at home until she marries.
The writing was simply brilliant. The identity of the perp was, I wouldn’t call it obvious, but at the same time, there was nothing surprising about it either. The gloom seemed to prevail until the last chapter and I wish the story was a bit cheerful. The insane goose and the ‘ghostly’ dog did bring some fun in the story but not quite enough to get over the gloom.
The police seemed to be straight forward and did not shy away to ask Jenny to help them in solving the case. It looked like they were lost and did not know how to proceed with the murder case. Again, if I have to compare it to the other two books, I would say that this was not expected. In the other books, Jenny does help the police in the end, but not spoon-feed them as she does in this story.
Since I had already read book #1 and #3 in this series, I wanted to read book #2 and I was a little disappointed. Nevertheless, the story is not bad at all. Just that, I expected something more from this book.