My thanks go out to publisher Bookouture, for securing me a spot on this ‘Books On Tour’ journey.
As ever, additional thanks go out to NetGalley, for their excellent download and review service.
A BODY AT LAVENDER COTTAGE (Kate Palmer #6)
Kate Palmer is stunned when she wakes up one morning to discover the body of a man in the beautiful garden of Lavender Cottage. She’s spent the last few years renovating her cozy, clifftop cottage with its gorgeous views of the sparkling Cornish sea. And a death right under her nose is more than a little unsettling…
When Woody Forrest, Kate’s new husband and the village’s retired detective inspector, takes a closer look he realises the victim is none other than Frank Ford – Woody’s old nemesis. Now, Frank is lying dead amongst the daisies… strangled with Woody’s blue police tie.
Kate is certain the man she loves is not a murderer and is determined to prove his innocence. But who would want to kill Frank and frame Woody? As Kate investigates, Frank’s family seem to be the obvious suspects. Could it be Jason Ford, the youngest son, who has an odd obsession with birdwatching? Sid Kinsella, the angry father-in-law? Or Sharon Mason, the troublesome daughter?
When another member of the Ford family bites the dust while Woody is tending his allotment, it’s clear the killer is determined to bury Woody’s reputation. But when a chance conversation on Bluebell Road provides Kate with a clue, she must find a woman named Rose, who could hold the answers Kate is looking for.
But Kate needs to dig up the truth – and fast! – before poor Woody is thrown behind bars. Can she solve the case and save her husband before it’s too late?
Writing was what Dee was good at in school and she won several essay competitions, but then life got in the way, and she didn’t pick up a pen again until after retirement.
Aged 18, Dee arrived in London from Scotland at the beginning of the swinging sixties and typed her way round the West End for a couple of years before joining BOAC (forerunner of British Airways) in Passenger Services for 2 years, and then as an air stewardess on long haul routes for 8 years.
After that she conducted market research at Heathrow for both the government statistics and for BA, before becoming a sales rep. She was also the receptionist at the Thames Television Studios in Teddington when they had the franchise.
Dee has since relocated to Cornwall with her husband, where she spent 10 years running a small B&B, before turning to writing full time. Her family still live close by.
“Kate Palmer, feeling all of her sixty-one years, yawned and rubbed her eyes as she stumbled into the kitchen of her Cornish hillside cottage at six o’clock on a grey Sunday morning. She’d given up on sleep, thanks to Barney’s incessant barking for half the night, and the springer spaniel was still at it – and scratching madly at the back door”
“She found her husband almost as white-faced as the corpse, as he stared in horror at the unfortunate man. Woody, having spent most of his life in the police, was not given to being easily horrified, but then again, he’d probably never found a body in his own garden before”
“Well, Woody’s ex-police and you’re the local Miss Marple, so if anyone’s going to solve this thing, it’ll be you two!”
“If there was one thing she’d learned after three years in a Cornish village, it was that word got around fast. And with each telling, so the story became further embellished”
“I have no idea how you two manage to get yourselves involved in every murder going. Come to think of it, I’ve never known such a succession of killings, bearing in mind this is a comparatively small village. You know what? I’m about ready to go back to the Met for a rest”
“Kate looked around. How fortunate she was to live in this lovely cottage, with this wonderful man, in glorious Cornwall!”
“Nurse Kate Palmer is Cornwall’s answer to Miss Marple! But when a body turns up in her own garden can Kate solve the crime?”
I am still toying with the notion that Kate Palmer might in fact be an amalgamation of Agatha Christie’s inimitable Miss Marple and UK television’s Hetty Wainthropp, as there are distinct physical and personality traits of both those redoubtable ladies in her character makeup. However, I would really rather remember Kate Palmer as herself, a recently remarried, semi-retired district nurse, with the knack of always being in the right place at the wrong time, when somebody screams “murder”! Although perhaps intentionally, Kate decided not to take her husband’s name on marriage, well would you, when your surname is already a very fitting anagram of ‘Marple’.
We could really do with a new detective series on mainstream television and this series would definitely transition well between the written word and the small screen. Each book seems to ‘up the ante’ for Kate and now that her ex-detective husband, Woody Forrester, appears more than happy to have become her partner in more ways than one, their joint powers of detection surely know no bounds!
Kate had two separate investigations on her hands this time, one of which should in theory, have been much easier to solve than the other. But little did she think that the cases were linked in any way, which is why I was so pleased to consider myself to have been way ahead of her, as I thought I had this case all sewn up quite early on and I was simply waiting for Kate to ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s’, so to speak. Well! How was I to know that there would be such a deviously fiendish twist in the tail so late in the day, meaning the endgame would play out quite differently to my predictions? But then I guess that’s why Kate is so good at what she does, whilst I am just an armchair critic.
Okay! so what’s this story all about…
Like any other self-respecting amateur sleuths, Kate and Woody have a four-legged friend who insists on being front and centre of any action, so it is springer spaniel Barney who instinctively knows that something is wrong around the place and when finally let outside to take the early morning air, sniffs out body #1. Kate is completely discombobulated by Barney’s discovery, as not only has she still not recovered from her last frightening brush with a dead body and a desperate killer, but she has only just finished trying to reassure Woody that she is going to hang up her sleuthing gloves for good and retire gracefully. Just to top it all off nicely, it seems by Woody’s emotional reaction that he knows the victim and to make matters even worse, the man has Woody’s old police tie, which was hung on the washing line, wrapped around his neck.
Charlotte Martin, the local DI is already fed up to the back teeth with what she sees as Kate’s meddling ways in police affairs, despite the fact that Kate has solved cases which her own professional force has failed to make headway with, but she feels she must put up with her for the sake of her relationship with Woody, who until recently was her peer in rank. For her part, Kate has always been slightly body image jealous of Charlotte and is concerned that Woody might be comparing the two of them when they are in a room together and finding her wanting. Understandably the atmosphere is more than a little tense when Charlotte comes over in person to oversee the investigation of the body and promptly makes Woody her number one suspect, which is red rag to a bull for Kate, who resolves to clear her husband’s name, even though he is specifically restricted from helping her.
The mystery man is identified as Frank Ford, a convicted murderer who has recently been released from prison and who has written to Woody asking if he might come down to Cornwall to chat with him. Woody was working with the Met in London at the time of the man’s arrest and trial and was never totally convinced by his confession to the murder. It might seem that perhaps Woody was right and now, having served his sentence, Frank wanted to reveal the true identity of the felon, although his motive at this late stage in the day, is unclear. It transpires that the entire Ford family, all of whom have felt the long arm of the law on more than one occasion, have massed at a local caravan park, apart from the daughter who married a Cornishman and already lives locally.
From Kate’s perspective, it seems an obvious assumption that someone in the family knows exactly what Frank wanted to discuss with Woody, so when she gets just a little too nosy and hears moments of lucid truth from a dementia sufferer, panic sets in for the perpetrator and soon a second body is found. Unfortunately, it is Kate and Woody who make this discovery too, which definitely doesn’t help Woody’s case at all, especially when Kate makes her regular mistake of confiding in her sister Angie, as this is akin to shouting it out from the rooftops to the entire world, thus unwittingly placing both Kate and Woody in even more danger. A surprise visit to Kate and Woody’s cottage, from a rather unconventional, London based Roman Catholic priest, throws Woody something of a lifeline, however as he has been expressly forbidden to leave the village, Kate must travel to the capitol alone to try and unravel the rather mixed messages the Father expressed. Back in Tinworthy and armed with a much clearer sense of Frank’s motives for wanting to make contact with Woody, Kate makes a rather reckless decision without first confiding in Woody, so by the time the joined-up truth about three unsolved murders and one miscarriage of justice is firmly placed on the police radar, it appears that time might have run out for Kate!
In a seemingly unrelated incident, two newcomers to the village give Kate cause for concern, although one of them meets an untimely end at the hands of a hit and run driver, before she can ascertain his reason for choosing to settle in this quiet neck of the woods, as he is a definite city dweller. The second is a rather suave, smooth-talking individual who seems to be taking advantage of susceptible females, including Kate’s sister Angie and Denise, one of her c0-workers at the surgery, and is busy trying to get them to part with their hard-earned cash to fund his many scam schemes. It isn’t until Kate works out the man’s true identity, that his link to the Ford family is established and she realises the extent of the danger Angie and Denise have unwittingly become embroiled in.
As an avid follower of this series, I feel as though I have got to know the resident characters of fictional Tinworthy quite well, so reading a new chapter about life (and death) in the village always feels like ‘going home’ to Cornwall, one of my most favourite parts of the country, even if there does seem to be a disproportionately high number of murders for such an intimate location. Although the featured village of Tinworthy is, as I noted, fictional, in this book author Dee MacDonald referenced some very real places nearby, which was great for a Cornish loving, map nerdy, armchair traveller like myself, as I was able to pinpoint the storyline location quite accurately, which is always very satisfying. Also, whilst the physical footprint of the story was confined to a relatively small geographic area, some excellent descriptive narrative and dialogue, made the overall reader experience immersive and interesting, as did Kate’s short but eventful trip to London.
Also, you don’t need to have read all the books from the beginning of the series to know your way around, because all the episodes work great as stand-alone stories, with author Dee MacDonald having perfected the technique of bringing any new readers up to date with necessary back-story details, in just a few cleverly placed sentences as a seamless part of the current storyline, all without ever making her regular followers feel short-changed, or appearing repetitive.
Despite the much slower pace of village life, the action actually moved along at quite a speed and there was never a dull moment in this well-structured, multi-layered and highly textured storyline, which was fluently written in short, easy to navigate chapters, keeping the pace of the story fluid and ever evolving. Like myself, Kate is also a great list maker, although hers do tend to concentrate on the identities of murder suspects, rather than my own work and shopping kind. This time that list is very complex and lengthy, and it seems as though as fast as one name is discarded or has a potential alibi, another immediately takes its place. There are always plenty of red herrings and twists in the tail of any case with which Kate is involved and this one proved to be particularly tricky, with the final act of a particularly ruthless and cold-blooded murderer, potentially silencing Kate forever.
Dee has created a multi-faceted, well drawn and defined cast of characters, who I could clearly visualise in my mind’s eye, especially now that after all this time, I am almost thinking of them as friends, rather than passing acquaintances. Kate and Woody are a down to earth couple, who you could always stop for a chat with and know they would have something interesting to say, so attracting murder suspects in the way they do actually seems quite out of character, although much of that is down to Kate’s rather nosy streak, which all we ladies have if the truth be told! As soon as you meet Kate’s elder sister Angie, the queen of gossip, and her garrulous often womanising partner, Irishman Fergal, you will see what I mean about them being memorable and always able to raise a smile or two from anyone who crosses their paths. They are either at each other’s throats or the life and soul of the party, there really is no middle ground with these two.
Together with the large local cast of extras, more like old acquaintances, such are the dynamics between them, who are all are authentically realistic and genuinely believable in the individual roles which have been created for them, I almost feel that I could knock on the door of any Tinworthy house or visit any of the businesses and receive a warm welcome, so long as Kate or Woody were with me to break the ice a little first and I came ready to share any snippets of information which might satisfy their curiosity and make me ‘one of them’. Each episode also generally features a couple of ‘outsiders’, who really don’t fit into village life at all and seldom tend to stick around, especially if they end up dead or in custody!
After her closest shave with death yet, Kate seems quite determined to give up all the ‘Miss Marple stuff’ for good and take up a new, more sedate hobby. I can only hope, that like so many times before, she has a complete change of heart when push comes to shove and the next murder investigation rears its ugly head, especially as it appears that the object of her body image jealousy, Charlotte Martin, has had enough of her stint as local DI and is ready to move on.
A complimentary kindle download of this book for review, was made available by the publisher and supplied by NetGalley.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion, and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However, some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well-deserved 5 out 0f 5 stars
Thank you so much for taking time to read my review, I appreciate your support.