Review: Mud, Muck and Dead Things

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)

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17 thoughts on “Review: Mud, Muck and Dead Things

  1. Lovely review! I haven’t heard of Ann Granger before. She looks like an interesting new writer. It is quite interesting that Jess Campbell has a literature degree! In my mind, that is already adding to the appeal of the story 🙂

    Do you like books by Dorothy Sayers? Last year, I discovered that humorist and writer of children books, A.A.Milne (who created Winnie the Pooh), has written a murder mystery in the Agatha Christie mould. I got it and read it and liked it very much. It is called ‘The Red House Mystery’. Have you read it?

    1. Ann Granger has written two other crime series and one historical crime series, so if you find that you enjoy her style, there´s a lot to read :)Though I can only recommend this one.

      I´ve tried reading Dorothy Sayers and I really liked her writing and Lord Peter Wimsey but somehow the mysteries didn´t really interest me (that was another failed attempt for me to get back into crime).

      I´ve read about Milne´s crime book on a blog somewhere and put it on my list. Glad you can recommend it! My library has it only in German but I´ll give it a go. Glad to find someone else who reads crime 🙂

      1. Will give Ann Granger a try sometime. Hope you get to read Milne’s ‘The Red House Mystery’ sometime. Would love to hear your thoughts on it.

    1. You haven´t read Agatha Christie??? ;D I love cozy crime (apparently it´s a real category), it does sound funny but in her books people usually kill for money, love etc (not b/c of some psycho problem), it´s not decribed in all its gory glory, and characterization is great. I really make reading crime cozy with tea and cookies 😀 Hope you give crime a go (um, in books!)!

    1. Lucky you! 🙂 I´m dissapointed that I didn´t like her books since she´s written so many. But perhaps I´ll like her new series because I really enjoyed this book.

  2. Thanks for praising my taste (so far). Now I am afraid I might recommend a book to you that you will not like…;-)
    I also liked the Cotswold setting in this book a lot.

    1. Hehe, no worries, you´ve got great taste :)And you´ve got me to enjoy crime agai. I´ve already told my mom that I´ll get her this book when it´s out in German!

  3. I loved Christie when I was young too (and still do)! 🙂 My other fave mystery authors are Laurie King (her Mary Russell series, which is historical), Dorothy Sayers, Kate Ross (only wrote four books before she passed, but they’re awesome regency historicals), and Donna Leon (contemporary series set in Venice). Maybe one of them will tickle your fancy? I’m incredibly picky about mysteries-most of the new authors I try don’t impress me.

    1. I think trying to find crime books I enjoy other than Christie will be a lifelong task 😀 I think I´ve read the first Marry Russell book, it´s the one with Sherlock Holmes, right? I´ve tried Sayers but didn´t enjoy the mysteries so much, but I haven´t read the ones with Harriet Vane. Oh well, there´s always rereading Christie´s masterpieces!

  4. This one sounds great! I didn’t even realize she had a new series. I have reads the Mitchell and Markby series. Thanks for the heads up and for visiting my TT.

  5. I’m getting flashbacks of my childhood. I read my way out of Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie, and then kind of gave up on the genre when I ran out of her. I’m going to try this book out!

    1. Haha, that´s exactly what happened to except that I read Enid Blyton´s book instead of Nancy Drew. I´ve been trying to find a substitute for Agatha Christie´s books for years. This book stands out as one that didn´t overly annoy me 😀 Hope you´ll like it!

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