When I was about ten years old I started devouring my mom´s Agatha Christie books. If I bought a new one, I went upstairs fell onto my bed and didn´t come down again until two hours later when I´d finished it. That´s why, for about ten years I believed myself to be a crime fan. Then I more or less ran out of Agatha Christie books and had to give other writers a shot. It didn´t work out too well, the queen of crime ruined me for anything else, but I´ve been looking for a substitute ever since.
I´ve read Ann Granger before, about one and a half books from her Mitchell & Markby series (my mom´s book shelf again) but I found the crimes boring and could either not remember the characters after two pages or didn´t care about them. This time around it worked out much better for me. I´m not sure if it´s because it came recommended by my friend who so far has shown good taste in books, because I´ve read it in English, or because after watching Midsomer Murders for a while I don´t wince every time someone gets out their cell phone or there´s some other evidence of modern life.
Mud, Muck and Dead Things is the first book in Ann Granger´s new Cotswolds crime series starring Jess Campbell and Ian Carter. Here´s a summary:
Lucas Burton hates the countryside. To him it’s nothing but mud, muck and dead things. And he’s right. When he turns up at a deserted farm in the middle of nowhere hoping to conduct a lucrative business deal he stumbles across the body of a dead girl. And that’s just the start of his problems. Penny Gower, from the local stables, spots his silver Mercedes leaving the scene of the crime and when her friend Andrew Ferris calls the police it’s only a matter of time before Lucas gets a visit from someone he’d rather not see! Inspector Jess Campbell is on the case, but with very few leads and a new superintendent breathing down her neck, the pressure’s on. Then another dead body is found! (fantasticfiction.co.uk)
This is not a crime novel that will surprise you with new angles and strategies but it´s a solid piece of sleuthing. Jess Campbell is an interesting character, smart and good at her job but not infallible, and Granger managed to make her come alive. The mystery is suitably interesting, although not impossible to solve (Granger is fair and provides enough clues along the way). If you´re used to murder and mayhem you won´t find it too brutal and can consider it cosy crime. I loved the Cotswolds setting, I´ve been to the Cotswolds and Gloucestershire a couple of years ago, and could picture the characters in such a setting. The new superintendent Carter has little to say and remains enigmatic and I´m curious about his story. The other characters (and suspects) were well-written, characterization in this book is much better than I remember from Granger´s other books, Jess Campbell let´s us know she has a literature degree and makes a reference to Miss Havisham and Great Expectations, and there´s ponies!
All in all I had a great evening reading this book, of course with tea by my side, and will read the second book in the series when it comes out. And isn´t the cover fantastic?
Some passages I liked:
“She suspected he had been rehearsing all this. Don´t go down to the street and let her in- too eager. Wait on the landing- shows toughfulness. Shae her hand and ask about her journey- break the ice. In other words, make a good first impression as a regular nomral nice guy.” (236)
“`(Death) takes away all personality,´Jones said, his gaze losing its concentration. he was going down memory lane. `It leaves the human body just a husk. I think there must be a spirit- or something like a spirit- because something definitely leaves the body on death.´” (254)
“Before, in their brief encounter at his house, she´d only received an impression of a tall thin, pale figure. Looking at Reggie now, Jess was irresistibly put in mind of Munch´s painting `The Scream´.” (263)