*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, Ringwood Publishing and Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: A dead body, a disappearance, and an epic lost in time. Unrelated incidents on the surface. Judith Fraser’s Oxford sabbatical quickly takes a sharp turn when she gets tangled in the mysterious murder of a colleague. With threads leading nowhere, conflicting impressions about people around her, and concern for increasing risk to her loved ones, whom can she trust? Her eccentric housemates? The CIA? Or, herself? Too many questions and insufficient answers.
A uniquely amusing and page-turning mystery novel set in 2003 on the eve of the Iraqi War, The Carnelian Tree follows the journey of Judith Fraser as she unravels mysteries of locked doors, missing computers, cat’s collars, and Reuter’s reports, with the help of DCI Keith Steadman, her potential love interest. Judith probes into people, power, politics, and sex, only to discover that some things remain unchanged. With a shady glimpse of the Oxford underbelly, this cross-genre novel will appeal to the full range of crime and mystery readers including Cosy Crime fans.
A cosy mystery set in Oxford among a group of miscellaneous post-grads, this book actually manages to blend in some espionage, political commentary, action and romance, alongside the more traditional amateur murder investigation.
The story is told mostly from Judith’s first-person perspective, with brief forays into the third-person viewpoints of other characters when she is not present to witness events first-hand. I really enjoyed getting the perspective of a middle-aged woman who is lively, engaged with local and world events, has a social life and even (shock horror!) a romantic life, alongside being a mum and a scholar. And now, an amateur detective.
While this begins in fairly standard cosy mystery style, with our intrepid main character stumbling on a murder victim, the style of the story is more what I would class as a ‘romp’ or ‘caper’, as clues and advances in the investigation are uncovered almost by accident as the characters date, drink and academic research their way through the plot. I was increasingly amused each time Judith reported her latest information to DCI Steadman… where would the official police investigation have got without her input?!
There were also a lot of political undercurrents beneath and throughout the plot. This doesn’t just include the mentions of the looming war in Iraq, but also more general information about relations between the UK and the Middle East, and the USA. These tensions inevitably bled into the main plotline as the characters worried about terrorist attacks and were frustrated by diplomatic immunity.
With so much going on, it’s no wonder I was unable to solve this mystery before the characters; the author successfully kept me distracted and red-herringed right up to the reveal. I mostly just sat back and enjoyed the ride through the ‘city of dreaming spires’ and the often-humorous shenanigans along the way.
Not your standard cosy mystery, this light-hearted story makes for an engaging and easy read, with a little something for everyone.
Tentatively, I stepped over the threshold. The object was Socrates, lying on his side, demonstrating he wasn’t the solid marble bust I’d imagined, but made of hollow ceramic. His sharp-edged base was darkly splattered and nearby, splodges of something decorated the carpet. As I bent to look more closely, I cried out when something brushed past my bare ankle. Little Selassie, Cedric’s Abyssinian cat, sped past me out into the garden to seek refuge under the rhododendrons. Looking down behind the desk, I saw what he had been guarding.– Anne Pettigrew, The Carnelian Tree
About the author
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Anne Pettigrew was a family doctor for 31 years and also has a degree in Medical Anthropology from Oxford. She wrote extensively in the national medical and lay press until retirement when she turned to penning novels about women doctors, discrimination, and crime. She was a Bloody Scotland Crime Fiction Festival 2019 Spotlight Author – ‘one to watch.’ Member of several writers’ groups and multiple short story competition winner, she lives in Ayrshire and enjoys good books, good wine, and good company.
Blogs/reviews books on her own website and on: https://annepettigrew.literaryglobe.com/
PURCHASE LINK: The Carnelian Tree ON AMAZON
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One thought on “Blog Tour: The Carnelian Tree – Anne Pettigrew”
Thanks for the blog tour support x