Title: Poison at the Village Show (A Martha Miller Mystery #1)
Author: Catherine Coles
Published on: 17 March 2022
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Martha Miller is a newcomer in the Westleham village. It’s been a year since her husband Stan disappeared. Stan left for work one morning and did not return. The police thought he must have gone away with another woman. Martha’s neighbors thought she killed and buried him under the potato patch in her backyard.
With no means to earn money (after Stan’s disappearance), Martha asked her younger sister Ruby to stay with her. Meat and tea is still a rarity but Martha grows plenty of vegetables in her garden so they have enough food. Martha is a judge and a co-chair at the Westleham Village Fair committee. She has also supplied her homemade plum gin for the occasion. Alice, the chairperson of the committee is just about to reveal the winners of the best garden contest when she takes a sip of Martha’s plum gin drops dead.
Once again, fingers point at Martha. With the help of the new vicar, Luke Walker, Martha decides to prove her innocence and bring the killer to justice.
Poison at the Village Show is the first book in Catherine Coles’ Martha Miller Mystery series.
The story begins with Martha and her sister Ruby having a chat. Since Stan’s disappearance, Martha has been living the life of a recluse. Her best friend is her dog Lizzie. Ruby works for a living and Martha takes care of her – warming her slippers when she returns home, cooking dinner and so on. Ruby tells Martha the new vicar is a ‘dish.’
She married Stan because she was single and it was war time. Her parents coerced her to find someone and settle down. Martha settled with the first man she met. They were never in love. When Stan returned from the war, he seemed even more distant. When he disappeared, Martha did not miss him. Although, the rumor that she buried him under his potato patch did annoy her.
Martha takes Lizzie for a walk and meets the new Vicar, Luke Walker, on her way. She ends up embarrassing herself and walks away before she could damage the conversation any more. The next day, Martha leaves early for the village fair. It is the first village fair since the war and everybody is looking forward to it. But when the village fair committee chair, Alice, drops dead after sipping Martha’s homemade plum gin, Martha once again becomes the center of gossip.
With the help of the new vicar, Martha decides to prove her innocence. This is no cake walk, though. Martha and Luke are friendly… their friendliness sets the tongues wagging once again. Also, Luke is handsome and Martha is confused about her feelings for him. On one hand, she’s still married to Stan. But she and Stan never had a husband-wife relationship to begin with, so wouldn’t it be better for her to find a man who loves and cares for her?
When Martha goes sleuthing, the suspects are hostile towards her. They blame her for killing Stan and now Alice. The gossipmongers in the village do not waste their time in starting a new train of rumors – the victim’s husband killed her. For money! As Martha and Luke start to investigate, they learn secrets about the villagers. Secrets that are worth killing for.
As a first in the series, this book has the perfect mix of character introduction, series-plot introduction and setting. The characters are likable. The storytelling is fantastic. The protagonist, Martha, is very likable and as the story ends, we do see her change… in a good way, of course. Martha has low self-esteem issues as the story begins, cannot blame her though, she’d been through a lot. As the story ends, Martha gains a bit of self-confidence – well, she did identify the killer and catch them red-handed, you see.
Speaking of killer, their identity was no surprise. The reason for murders (there are two murders, both victims are women and both died after drinking Martha’s plum gin) was not something I expected. I kept my expectations high and the ending was not up to my liking. Having said that, I loved the writing, the characters and the plot so I will be looking forward to knowing what’s next for Martha. Will Stan ever come back? Only time will tell…