Title: Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate. 3.5 stars
Publisher: Alibi (Random House) 261pp
Genre: cozy, english mystery, birding, series
Marty Wingate is an American writer and speaker of gardening and travel. She has an MS in Urban Horticulture, and knows her plants. She contributes to Country Gardens and other magazines. This year her garden tour went to the Lake District and York, England. Her book research took her to the Suffolk village of Long Meadow. She resides in Seattle and has a weekly local NPR slot. Wingate has several cozy series, the first concentrate on English gardening: The Potting Shed Mysteries. (The third installment Between a Rock and a Hard Place will be published next month and reviewed here soon). Rhyme of the Magpie will begin The Birds of A Feather series.
Julia Lancaster was a personal assistant and associate producer for her father’s award winning BBC birding programme. But with his quick remarriage following the unexpected death of her mother, Julia quits her job to make a fresh start as a tourist manager for a local estate in the quaint village of Smeaton-under-Lyme. Her job is to build the estate and town into a destination spot. As a thirty something, divorcee (her ex is the birdman of St Kilda), she acts rather childish, immature and scattered, although we all deal with family death differently. But she is loyal and when her father goes missing (a not uncommon practice) she attempts to find him, stumbling upon a body instead. Unfortunately the body is near her father’s birding cottage, he is nowhere to be found and the body is someone he has been known to have clashed with publicly. She investigates his disappearance with the help of his new assistant (her replacement) Martin Sedgewick, who provides a steady hand and romantic interest. He is of course handsome, charming, intelligent, but too smooth (with secrets). Julia (aka Jools) learns to be more accepting, make fewer rash, impulsive decisions and become less egocentric. I like that her sister Bianca had a completely different take /view of their childhood. I like the normal village politics too. There are timely themes of tourism and estates, environmentalism and habitat destruction, family bonds.
This is an entertaining mystery, with plot twists, lovely characters, well placed clues and a satisfying, dramatic ending. And lots of tea. You will be reaching for tea and biscuits as you read this, so be prepared. Empty Nest is due in December and I shall look forward to continuing this engaging series.
To Laura Childs, Ellery Adams, Jen McKinlay
Marty Wingate’s Potting Shed mysteries
Opening line: Four magpies in their black and white jester outfits strutted about on the pavement when I stepped out of my cottage. ….. I had told my sister that magpies were an early warning system, and she had told me to shut it.
The cottage was small, but I had distilled my life into its essence and needed little.
I felt a dull ache start up in my chest as I sensed my old life as a foxhound and me up a tree.
Lord Fotheringill wore impeccable tweeds and had a neatly trimmed mustache and black hair with a touch of grey at the temples, although some weeks that grey was more noticeable than others.
Some things are best left to fester in the dark.
Read as an ARC from Netgalley. Thank you!