When the least-liked woman in Wendlebury Barrow collapses inside a headless Anne Boleyn costume while tied to the rail of a float in the village show, newcomer Sophie Sayers, like all the other villagers, accepts the verdict of death by natural causes.
She’s more consumed by doubts about how her great aunt May died: was she murdered by old neighbour Joshua who keeps appearing without warning in the garden? And what exactly are Hector the bookshop owner’s mysterious business activities?
“What had begun as a simple proposition – to live in a rent-free cottage, in a pleasant stable community while pursuing the writing ambitions that I’d held since childhood – now seemed fraught with traps, difficulties and dangers”.
By Chapter Four, I was so intrigued by a heroine who shops for “just the essentials” – shortbread, cake, chocolate, wine – at Carols’ alphabetical shop where you find the postcards by the plums and The Times by the turnips, that I had accidentally spoiled some pages with, umm, coffee stains.
But who wouldn’t want to jump into the next chapters when they’re titled “Reader, I Left Him”, “The Cream of the Bookshop”, “Writers Afloat”, or “Beware of the Wardrobe”.
By gifting us with Sophie Sayers and Wendlebury Barrow, Debbie Young entertains with barmy characters, blooming gardens, cliques within community groups, and dreams of romance in an apparently bachelor-free village .
Along the way readers are also treated with the perils of writer’s block (falling asleep in the garden, in Sophie’s case), fun with cliches, and joyous little book references such as when Hector gives Greene’s “Travels with my Aunt” to Sophie.
Debbie Young’s Best Murder in Show is the first of seven Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries. Trick or Murder” and Murder in The Manger are next and available everywhere including Book Depository. But asking for them at your friendly local (or village) book shop would be most appropriate for a novel in which a very entrepreneurial book shop features prominently.
You can learn more about these titles and her short story collections, including Marry In Haste, at Debbie Young’s website.
You are at Baffled Bear Books, the blog of Mark, guardian,chocolate-fetcher and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson is writer bear of It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In.