Blurb: A cliff-top murder. A clever canine. A seaside sleuth.
After the death of her husband, Liz McLuckie has taken early retirement and moved to Whitby, a picturesque fishing town on the North Yorkshire coast. She thinks the renovation of two ramshackle fishing cottages will take her mind off things, but soon discovers Whitby isn’t quite the peaceful retreat she imagined.
When she discovers the body of a local Professor near the medieval Abbey, Liz reluctantly finds herself at the centre of a murder investigation. The post mortem reveals death by drowning. So how did he get onto the clifftop? And why did he have a fish in his pocket?
Liz follows the trail of the murderer, and many red herrings – both literal and metaphorical – in the company of her friends, including an almost-reformed burglar, a disgraced archaeology student and Nelson the bull terrier – the ugliest (and bravest!) dog in Yorkshire.
What struck me most about this highly enjoyable cosy mystery book (first in a series!) was how real it all felt.
The main character, Liz, has aches and pains, makes social missteps which make her vow to change her entire personality for the better, can’t resist poking her nose into anything interesting that might be happening, and has believable relationships with her friends and acquaintances. Even her potential romances avoid the ‘convenient sub-plot’ route by remaining stubbornly inconvenient. And her rescue dog, Nelson, is both utterly adorable and completely believable too – sticking to demanding walks and treats over helpfully turning up unlikely clues.
The side characters are fascinating, with so much potential in this and future mystery plots. Especially Tilly and the unpleasant DI Frost, who I loved and loved to hate respectively.
In terms of the mystery, I was kept guessing right up to the reveal – which doesn’t happen often to me – and yet have to concede that all of the clues were there for the solving. Always the most satisfying kind of mystery read, when that happens!
Well-written and extremely relatable (with regards to Liz and Nelson, not the murders!), I look forward to reading more from this series and author in the future. And am keeping my fingers crossed that Liz gives in and lets Nelson on the bed for good: he’s such a good boy!
‘When she turned the corner of the church, she saw Nelson about twenty metres away, standing over something that lay between the headstones. She thought at first it was a pile of old clothes, but as she ran towards him over the soggy, uneven ground, she quickly revised her opinion.– Jan Durham, Death at the Abbey
‘Nelson! Come here!’
He ignored her, continuing to prod the prone man with his nose. He nuzzled his cheek, trying to revive him. Liz stifled a curse and ran to catch hold of the dog.
‘Stay still, for heaven’s sake.’ As she bent to clip Nelson on his lead, he jumped up and licked her full on the lips. ‘Ewwww!’ She wiped her mouth with her sleeve, grabbed the bouncing dog by the scruff of his neck and finally managed to clip him on the lead.
She hauled Nelson further off and stared at the man on the ground. She knew a dead body when she saw one.’
Jan lives just outside Edinburgh with her husband, three kids, a one-eye whippet, and a fat black pug. Born in a colliery village in the North East of England, she cut her literary teeth on the great storytellers of the 60’s and 70’s – Wilbur Smith, Frank Yerby, Mary Renault, and Sergeanne Golon. She began her writing career as an advertising copywriter and has since had novels published by Random House and HarperCollins, and original audio series produced by Audible UK. She also writes for tv.
Jan enjoys psychological thrillers and crime fiction of all kinds, from the coziest of cozies to the blackest of noirs. Death at the Abbey is her first cozy mystery in the Kipper Cottage series with Inkubator Books. Book 2 in the series, Death at Neptune Yard, is also available now.
Don’t forget to stop by the other blogs on this tour (see the poster below for details) for more great content and reviews!