My favorite author Victoria Dowd is back with the next installment of The Smart Woman’s Mystery series. I have been following this series from the start and when I received an ARC from Hanna of Joffe Books, I knew I had to read it ASAP.
My review posts which usually start with a synopsis but for this one, I am going to try something different. So, let’s get started!
The story begins with The Smart Women – Ursula Smart, Pandora Smart (Ursula’s mother), Aunt Charlotte (Pandora’s sister) and Bridget (not a Smart!) at The Old Bailey for a court hearing. The defendant is Penelope Lovell, wife of Anthony Lovell.
Anthony Lovell, writer of the famous series Sheridan Le Foy, invited the high and lo of the crime writing world. This included crime blogger Pandora Smart, renowned crime writers, members of an exclusive crime writers group and a journalist. Well, calling Pandora Smart a crime blogger might be a bit of an overkill but Pandora made sure the whole world knew of their (mis)adventures. Also, is there a better way to seek sympathy and gain fame other than blogging? Pandora doesn’t think so. *wink wink*
Mirabelle, Pandora’s best friend and one of the members of the “Slaughter Five’ – also know as Smart Women – met her untimely death (in the previous book.) Mirabelle’s betrayal is still hurtful. There is no way for Pandora to make peace with what she learned before Mirabelle died. Pandora’s taken to drinking and wallowing in self-pity. Aunt Charlotte moved in with Pandora and Ursula soon after Mirabelle’s death.
Alright, let’s continue with the story. So, where were we? Ah, yes, Anthony Lovell’s event. An evening of winning, dining and hobnobbing with the literati turns bloody when the host is found dead. A Japanese specialty dish – fugu (pufferfish) was served at the event. Anthony Lovell can be called a Japanophile or ‘shinnichi.’ Anthony also spent years in Japan before beginning his writing career and fell in love with the country and its culture.
Pufferfish is extremely poisonous and chefs are specially trained to remove the poisonous organs before the fish is termed fit for human consumption. After the fugu chefs host a demonstration of gutting the poisonous fish, the group returns to the main hall for dinner. After the event, the host and few of the guests return to their respective rooms. A couple of minutes later, Ursula hears blood curling screams. It’s Penelope… she’s screaming “He’s dying.”
Fast forward to the present, the Smart Women are at the court hearing. Penelope is accused of killing her husband with tetrodotoxin, a poison commonly found in pufferfish. Penelope had gone to the kitchen to prepare a hot beverage for her husband. The same kitchen where the toxic remains of the pufferfish were stored… Once again, the Smart Women find themselves in the midst of a murder.
The story alternates between the court drama (present) and events leading up to Anthony’s murder (past.) As the hearing proceeds, Ursula is not convinced that the accused is guilty of killing her husband. Also, some of the witnesses are not quite truthful in what they testify.
In the other installments of this series, the narration (by Ursula Smart) is as the events occur. From their journey to the venue (of crime) and the actual events that lead to the first murder. In A Book of Murder, Victoria Dowd has tried something different. A court room drama with flashbacks of the events leading up to murder. Victoria worked as a criminal law barrister for many years before retiring. We readers do get to see a couple of ‘behind the scenes’ of what happens before a court proceeding.
It goes without saying A Book of Murder is yet another masterpiece. The characters get quirky with each new installment. Aunt Charlotte is a bit tamed this time, maybe Mirabelle’s death is affecting her. Bridget is coping up too, not well though, as Ursula realizes in the latter half of the story. We also have Bridget’s ‘eclectic’ collection of pets – her new collection includes a ten-foot python and a ‘micropig’ (which is, in real, a piglet.) *oink oink*
I missed Bridget’s dog Mr. Bojingles though. It seems he’s training for something special… it has always been his dream to help the needy. Aunt Charlotte says she wasn’t aware dogs have dreams… Do they? Dupin, Bridget’s red monkey also makes an appearance. Bridget and Dupin wear matching pyjamas. Do I need to say more?
The ending is simple mind-blowing. Ursula finds herself face-to-face with the killer and goodness! Clock’s a-ticking for Ursula. She gets a confession from them alright, but it might be too late…
A Book of Murder by Victoria Dowd is an entertaining and completely engrossing mystery. If you love quirky crime mysteries, you might want to give this book a try.
Other books in this series:
Book #2: Body on the Island
Book #3: The Supper Club Murders
I received an ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.