It was a great treat for me to take another holiday in idyllic seaside town where:
‘To the east, the land fell away towards Combemouth; to the west a chain of scalloped shaped bays edged the land’.
The setting is vivid and the charming bookshop is inviting. I settled back into my usual seat in The Reading Room and listened to the latest gossip.
Eleanor, the bookshop owner, is a kind, engaging character – she is someone that one could trust. Her positive outlook led her to set up a new life in Combemouth six years ago. Her philosophy of love is that ‘love is twenty percent attraction, thirty percent luck and fifty percent timing.’ She appreciates her good fortune to meet Dan and the fact that his love supports and guides her – proof that a second marriage can work. The previous book told Eleanor and Dan’s love story but this book tells a different kind of story. In this novel, Eleanor is a glamorous, young ‘Mrs’ Marple: forget the brogues, forget the tweed and dig out a vintage party frock.
The suspense story captured my imagination so much that I wanted to be there. I could imagine a stage production of this mystery as it has all the right ingredients: the manor, the briefcase, the ring, the vicar… Enter Eleanor, the Bookshop Detective, exit Dreary Deirdre. Cue Daniel, waiting in the wings to support but something is troubling him. Is his ex-wife on the horizon?
Blow away the dust on Joshua’s books to reveal a ship. Can you see the ghost ship sailing in the distance and will this bring a bad omen? Dim the lights as the ghost ship gets closer. The characters present a tableau of the Victorian scenes. But what happened to the poor boy who was flogged? Can Eleanor’s investigation save the boy? Why does someone think that Eleanor is ‘going to kill him?’
In a stage production, the actors would have to play many roles. For instance, Erika and Deirdre could be the same actor, or could it be Erika and Daniel? Could someone play the rock star and the vicar? Surely Connie and Joyce could be the same actor. Are there any clues here? You will have to read the book to find out.
I am getting carried away with this ‘detective lark’! Jan Ellis is so clever at writing the dialogue that I became completely absorbed and wanted to be amid the drama. Jan Ellis has skilfully woven the clues into the narrative. I envied Eleanor’s knowledge and read the book greedily in one sitting. I visited the bookshop, the fair and the parties so it was only right that I should be able to get involved in the investigation.
This book has been cleverly constructed so that it could be enjoyed without knowledge of Summer of Surprises and An Unexpected Affair. However, I would recommend this delightful duo as a holiday read! Begin at the beginning with An Unexpected Affair and let the drama unfold as you take a comfortable seat in the Reading Room. Jan Ellis is skilled at creating fun, engaging characters and drawing you into their world.
This novel presents a perfect escape: a cleverly constructed narrative. What a brilliant idea to delve into the detective genre with the characters created in the romance genre -love it!