By Sarah Yarwood-Lovett; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
Searching for animal scat, cataloguing plants and mapping animal habitats is all part of a day’s — or night’s work — for Dr. Nell Ward.
Her firm of ecologists has been hired by developer David Stephenson. He’s planning to convert his wife Sophie Crows’ family home, Manor House Farm, outside of Manchester, England, into a residential development.
Nell’s task is to assess the environmental impact of the development on the area’s plant and animal life. The local council will then decide whether to grant permits to allow the development to go forward.
This routine assignment turns into something much more threatening when Stephenson’s wife, Sophie Crows, is murdered in a nearly mile-long tunnel from the house to the woods. Surveillance cameras show that Nell was at the far end of the tunnel at about the same time.
When Detective Sergeant (DS) James Clark and Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Val Johnson show up at Nell’s home, she is cooperative about sharing the photos she took during her exploration of the site and antique maps she had found showing the tunnel leading from the house.
But she’s not prepared to be the prime suspect in Sophie’s murder.
Nell has carefully hidden secrets of her own that the police begin at first slowly and then brutally digging up. All of them make things look worse for Nell.
The fact that Sophie had served Stephenson with divorce papers and recently changed her will, thus making his development plans impossible, doesn’t hit the police as suspiciously as Nell’s presence at the tunnel.
Nell soon finds herself using her knowledge of nature and the planning and development process to do her own investigation of Stephenson.
Nell is an interesting character. Her past has made her reluctant to open up to others. She finds herself attracted to both her colleague Dr. Adam Kashyap and DS James, providing romantic complications that carry into the next book.
Nell’s background as an ecologist gives her unexpected talents as an investigator. The result is a credible amateur detective. The plot touches on themes of privilege and prejudice and trust and deception. This is classified as a cosy mystery but due to Nell’s character and background it’s more sophisticated than many cosy mysteries.
A MURDER OF CROWS was author Sarah Yarwood-Lovett’s first book, published in 2022. It was followed by:
- A CAST OF FALCONS. Nell has offered to host her friend Percy’s wedding to Hawke McAnstruther at Nell’s family estate. Nell doesn’t realize how much Percy’s parents disapprove of her choice of groom. Hawke’s shady past begins to come to light almost as soon as the ceremony is over. By dawn the next day, someone has been murdered.
- A MISCHIEF OF RATS (due out in 2023).
The Author: Sarah Yarwood-Lovett
For 16 years, Sarah Yarwood-Lovett was an ecologist. Her work involved forensically studying clues for animal activity across the United Kingdom and around the world. She taught school workshops and has given evidence as an expert witness in court cases.
While working on her doctorate, she rediscovered a British species thought to be extinct and updated London’s Natural History Museum.
Her scientific career was the perfect training for writing murder mysteries with an ecological twist.
She lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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