Saturday, February 25, 2023

An English Garden Murder - Julia Bird Mysteries #1

An English Garden Murder is the first Julia Bird village cozy mystery by Katie Gayle. Released 5th May 2022, it's 254 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The other two books in the series are also currently available on KU. 

This is such an engaging modern village cozy with a genuinely appealing female amateur sleuth who's in her late middle age, intelligent and earnest and generally well meaning. Despite a long career in social services in London, a recent divorce (her husband married the gardener), and other major curveballs, she maintains a mostly positive outlook on life. Having acquired a cozy cottage in a cozy village in the Cotswolds, she's ready for the next adventure which includes a cozy garden with some chickens. What she wasn't planning on was discovering skeletal remains under the garden shed she's had pulled down to build a chicken coop. It doesn't take long until more crimes are uncovered and she discovers that life in a village might not be more peaceful and crime-free than in London. 

The author has a deft touch with humour and there were lots of scenes which surprised a grin or giggle out of me. The characters are well rendered and (mostly) believable within the allowable framework of the genre. I was particularly impressed by the dialogue which flows well and freely. The usual small town eccentric characters are present and the plot moves along at a good pace.

I also liked that instead of the usual trope-y antagonistic and incompetent local police force, protagonist Julia has an unexpected ally in the form of young DI Hayley Gibson. They strike up a surprisingly good cooperation to solve the mysteries.

The main mystery is self contained in this volume, so it works well as a standalone. There are currently three books extant in the series making it a good candidate for a long weekend binge read or buddy read. Genuinely well written and fun to read.

Four and a half stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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