The Vicarage Murder
By Faith Martin
PUBLISHED DATE: August 29, 2019
PUBLISHER: Joffe Books
SERIES: Monica Noble Series Book #1
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3 out of 5 Sherlocks
** I received this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley and Joffe Books. All opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by receiving this book for free. **
IN A QUIET COTSWOLD VILLAGE ALL HELL IS ABOUT TO BREAK LOOSE
Monica Noble is throwing a party to welcome the village’s new residents. The guests include Margaret and her cheating husband Sean. Also on the list are a celebrity chef, an Oxford university professor, a 40-something divorcee, and the owner of a chain of gyms.
Then as the drinks are flowing, a shotgun blast rings out. One of the guests is found dead.
DCI Dury and Sergeant Jim Greer are soon on the scene and discover that the victim had many enemies. Almost all the guests harbour secrets and motives for murder. Even Monica’s daughter comes under suspicion.
When another villager is strangled to death nearly a week later, the stakes are raised.
Can Monica help the local detectives save her daughter and solve the murders before anyone else pays the ultimate price?
That cover had me drawn into this book from the first moment that I saw it over on NetGalley. I knew that I had to read it, but like the old adage goes “don’t judge a book by its cover” held true here. A story that could have been a favorite was hindered by lack of focus on the main character and too many characters to truly become attached to any.
Martin introduces us quickly to almost every single character that will appear in the book. In the vicarage there are roughly 12 occupants thrust at us in the first several pages or chapters. This does not include other side characters that are also shown to us. Then we are introduced to two more when the murder takes place in the inspector and his fellow officer. This is just a lot of characters to get thrown at you, but it was the fact that most of them were thrown at us, the readers, right at the beginning of the book. It became a challenge to remember who was who exactly for a part of the book.
The problem with there being so many characters on the page was that it greatly detracted from having any focus on the main character of the series, which was heralded as the vicar’s wife, Monica. There is supposed to be more books coming in the series, so it feels important to create some connection to the character that is in the “series” title. If I was to go off this first book I would not have much interest in continuing as I did not connect with Monica. She was not a sleuth nor did she seem invested in solving the crime. She instead was like other characters in the book finding out things as they were discovered. Numerous other characters give the police important clues to the crime, but Monica is the person that deduces exactly what happens. It was like Martin realized at the end of the book, “Oh yeah! This is supposed to be her series.”
Yes, there were too many characters, but I can say that I enjoyed the plot of this book. I enjoyed the crumbs along the way that we were given that lead to the reveal. The reveal was probably the best part of the book. I had a good idea who it was and partially why, but there was some information that I thought that did not end up being part of the reveal. I was pleased that she used these as part of a red herring. It allowed me to feel a bit like she got me, but not enough to be upset by it either. I enjoyed also that part of the reveal came from a member of the parish that the vicar gives guidance to because it did not come from the overwhelming number of vicarage occupants. Martin gave all the information sprinkled throughout the book for the reveal, so it is solvable and it doesn’t come out of left field.
My favorite characters in the book were hardly in it. There was a sweet older couple by the end of the book that I enjoyed and hope if there is more in the series that they become recurring characters that help Monica solve the capers that she comes across. Martin hasn’t hit a home run here, but she has created a mystery book that engages the reader. One that makes me at least consider reading the next book to see if she finds the footing of the characters. It kept me reading until the final page and honestly that is what a good mystery book should do, right?