Title: An English Garden Murder (Julia Bird Mysteries #1)
Author: Katie Gayle
Published on: 5 May 2022
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recently divorced and reluctantly retired Julia Bird has fled the hustle and bustle of London to enjoy a quiet life in Cotswolds. Her first job is to tear down the old shed and build a chicken coop. She asks the local handyman Johnny Blunt for help.
Well, you know how it is. Country life and all that. Everybody knows about everyone and nobody locks their doors. And when you want to hire the local handyman, all you have to do is go to the local café and look for a man in blue knitted cap. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Blunt agrees to build a chicken coop for Julia. The poor chap is a tad deaf and initially thinks Julia wants him to build a hoop. HOOP, YOU SAY? No, Mr. Blunt, COOP. CHICKEN COOP. Blunt’s grandson tears down the shed while his grandpa and Julie are having a cuppa in the kitchen. The grandson comes running, tears in eyes and all, and says he found a body in the shed.
Well… not a decaying one. This one seemed to be buried for a long time and now it is just bones. The local cops are called in. DI Hayley Gibson is busy solving the case of a missing bicycle – which finally turns out to be a ‘misplaced’ bicycle. She says nobody is in a hurry to solve this murder as it is a cold case – and quite possible, it is not murder but a natural death or something.
Julia worked as a social worker before and has a lot of experience in doing research and finding things. So, until the chicken coop project is a GO, she decides to do a bit of sleuthing – with the help of a wild and naughty Lab pup named Jake.
When Julia and Jake go on their morning walk, Jake jumps into the river and follows the ducks. (Or, was it geese?) He gets himself entangled in the weeds and Julia has to jump into the water to rescue him. She pulls him out of the weeds all right – but in the first attempt, she pulls out someone else. Another dead body! This time, Julia knows the victim.
The newly nicknamed Grim Reaper of Berrywick aka Julia Bird is determined to catch the killer and solve the murders. Someone in this quaint little village has already killed twice. Julia does not want to be the third victim.
An English Garden Murder is the first book in Katie Gayle’s Julia Bird Mystery series.
I was so excited to hear that my favorite author (or, should I say authors because Katie Gayle is the pseudonym of two authors – Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel) was writing a new cozy mystery series. I have read their previous work – Epiphany Bloom series – quite a laughter riot, this.
Julia Bird is ready to restart her life. Her husband of many decades left her for another man. His beau was the one who designed Julia’s garden – ouch! Julia was also ousted from her job as a social worker – not her fault, though.
She goes for a walk and is attacked by a… naughty Labrador pup. He first jumps on her and spills the contents of her handbag. Chews on her lipstick. Pees on her shoes. And yet, Julia finds him adorable. Surprisingly, the pup listens to Julia and not his trainer. Julia ends up adopting the pup. Well, he is up to his shenanigans the whole time. Chews the garden hose and turns it into a sprinkler. Chews on socks and whatnots. (NOTE: This is why I like cats!)
So, Julia decides to tear down the old garden shed and build a chicken coop. But when the building is demolished, skeletal remains are found. Then, another villager is found drowned in the river – and this time, it is murder. The victim had recently purchased a Toby jug from the local charity shop and sold it for a huge amount. Maybe someone wanted to lay their hands on the money and had to kill the owner first.
As Julia starts to investigate, she learns quite a few secrets about the villagers – and most of them are connected to the victim in some way. Then comes another shocker – the remains found in the shed belonged to someone from the village. And plenty of suspects in this case. Plenty of red herrings too.
The mystery behind the murder(s) kept me guessing till the end. Jake’s shenanigans are hilarious – as long as you are not Jake’s owner, you will find his antics funny. 😉 There is also a mention of Katie Gayle’s other series – Tabitha (Julia’s best friend) finds Epiphany Bloom series hilarious. True, dat!
We also have Cotswolds own James Bond 007 – Sean O’Conner. Julia and James Bond – well, hope to see some romance there. Then we have the local book club – who are more interested in learning about the local murders than discussing books. A book club that solves murders. Hmm!
Julia’s sleuthing finally brings her face-to-face with the killer. Not a pretty scene, this. Thankfully, DI Gibson comes to the rescue.
Overall, An English Garden Murder by Katie Gayle was an entertaining and enjoyable read. If you love quirky cozy mysteries set in rural England, you might want to give this book a try.