Title: Death at the Auction (The Stamford Mysteries #1)
Author: E.C. Bateman
Published on: 18 November 2022
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Death at the Auction is the first book in E.C. Bateman’s Stamford Mysteries. What makes a cozy mystery ‘cozy?’ A quaint village setting? Yes. Quirky and/or eccentric characters? Yes? A town where gossip and rumors are ‘highlights of the day’? Yes. Death at the Auction ticks all these boxes and then some more. 🙂
The story begins on a slow note. We have Fliss (aka Felicia) waking up to just another ‘normal’ day when she receives a phone call from her friend Cassie. Fliss’ father has had an accident – nothing to worry about, just a minor case of falling down the stairs. Ahem. He’s broken his leg so Fliss must conduct the auction. Well, it’s a last minute request but an urgent one.
Fliss and her twelve-year-old son Algernon return to Stamford. Algie sits with Betsy (who works at the auction house) and notes down the bids. Fliss is on the rostrum, auctioning items when there is a last minute entry. It was approved by her father so she goes ahead and opens the bid for a Jacobean Oak cupboard. Fliss’ ex-husband, Dexter Grant, a famous treasure hunter, makes a dramatic appearance and stops Fliss from selling the cupboard. Um, well, at least he tries to stop her… but he didn’t have to, you know. As the cupboard opened, a body fell out…
The victim is Barrington Clay, a fellow auctioneer. What was he doing in a Jacobean Oak cupboard? Definitely not trying to get murdered!
We have a second PoV here: an old couple attend the auction and stood close to the oak cupboard in which the body was found. The man forgot his scarf so he and his wife returned to the auction house, saw the police and the dead body, and made a run for it before the constable could stop them.
Well, things are pretty slow-paced until the first half of the book. The discovery of a body in the cupboard is only the beginning. The mystery takes a tangential turn (for good, in this case) when Fliss and Dexter end up at another crime scene!
The local detective, Detective Sergeant Pettifer, isn’t your usual gruffy and rude policeman. Though he warns Fliss to mind her own business and not interfere in the case, Fliss cannot stay still and wait for the police to catch the killer. Especially when she feels she’s being threatened…
I loved the characters. Algie is my favorite. In a way, Algie reminded me of a younger-me; having to be an adult in a child’s body is no piece of cake. He’s very observant and logical – another reminder of a younger me. 😉
The mystery behind the murder(s) kept me guessing till the end. A couple of twists – especially in the second half, increased the ‘suspense’ factor by a notch. The events that finally led to Fliss coming face-to-face with the killer – gosh, this was an edge-of-your-seat moment. The identity of the killer was a real shocker. I didn’t see it coming!
Death at the Auction by E.C. Bateman is a fantastic start to a brand new cozy mystery series. An engrossing, entertaining and enjoyable read. Highly recommended!
I received an ARC from One More Chapter and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.