By Robert Thorogood; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
Little old ladies do and have made wonderful sleuths since writer Agatha Christie introduced Miss Jane Marple in late 1927.
They (along with elderly men) seem ever more popular since Richard Osman wrote THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB, a series that now includes four mysteries; Leonie Swann’s THE SUNSET YEARS OF AGNES SHARP; and Deanna Raybourn’s KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE.
Now, screenwriter Robert Thorogood, creator of “Death in Paradise,” brings 77-year-old Judith Potts to the world of detective fiction.
Judith is “entirely happy with her life. She lived in an Arts and Crafts mansion on the River Thames, she had a job she loved that took up just enough of her time and no more, and best of all, she didn’t have to share her life with any man.”
When she goes out, she wears a treasured dark grey woolen cape that she believes is a cloak of invisibility. (No one pays attention to older people anyway.) Every evening, rain or shine, she takes off her clothes, pulls on her cape, steps out of the house, crosses the yard to her boat house and goes swimming nude in the Thames.
The death of Judith’s neighbor, art gallery owner Stefan Dunwoody, who lived across the river in an old mill, sets this story in motion. Soon there are two more murders in an otherwise peaceful and quiet town: taxi driver Iqbal Kassam is found dead from a gunshot wound to the head in his own bed, and Liz Curtis, who owns a financially beleaguered rowing center with her husband.
As Judith pokes into these murders, she learns that auction house owner Elliot Howard had had several public arguments with Stefan and considered him a cheat, a liar and a fraud. But Elliot can’t be a suspect: he was at choir practice and visible on security camera footage.
While confirming his alibi, Judith meets Becks Starling, the vicar’s wife. Becks becomes a reluctant — but temptable — member of Judith’s team.
Police Detective Sergeant Tanika Malik isn’t sharing information. Judith decides to track down Iqbal’s dog walker, Suzie Harris, who is now caring for his Doberman Emma.
Although reluctant at first, Suzie shares Judith’s curiosity and is more than willing to share her concerns. She liked Iqbal. He dreamed of buying a boat. He had helped take care of his next door neighbor and expected to inherit his house when the neighbor passed away.
Instead, the neighbor’s solicitor Andy Bishop inherited the house. Andy was on a two-week holiday in Malta when Iqbal was killed so he can’t be a suspect.
Through leaks and slips, Judith, Becks and Suzie learn that the seemingly random murders had several things in common.
All three victims were shot with a World War II German revolver that should have been decommissioned. A bronze medallion was found with each body. The medallions were individually engraved with the words “Faith,” “Hope” and “Charity.”
Judith, Becks and Suzie are dedicated, creative and courageous as they go about checking alibis and dredging up information from the community’s history. They have distinct personalities that mesh well in their crime-solving efforts.
Judith has particularly fine talents for crime solving; she’s the creator of crossword puzzles for national newspapers. She inherited her house from her great-aunt Betty in 1976, along with a small portfolio that provides her with a modest income and a great deal of independence.
Becks chafes at her image of the vicar’s wife as a paragon and shining example of the perfect wife, housekeeper and mother. She’s having an identity crisis. Being invited into adventures with Judith and Suzie is just what she needs to free herself from her self-imposed restrictions and grow into a happier person.
Suzie has raised daughters on her own; struggled with money and is often disregarded because of her age and lack of social status. But she knows and loves dogs and enjoys her place in the world.
THE MARLOW MURDER CLUB was followed by DEATH COMES TO MARLOW. That book was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Cosy Crime novel published in the U.S. in 2022. The third book in the series, THE QUEEN OF POISONS, is due out in June 2024.
PBS Masterpiece and UKTV have okayed an adaptation of THE MARLOW MURDER CLUB to be written by Thorogood and to star Samantha Bond. (She played Miss Moneypenny in four James Bond films during the Pierce Brosnan era.)
The Author: Robert Thorogood (1972 – )
The show has since gone on to 10 seasons. Thorogood has written at least one episode in each season except the 10th.
In January 2014, he signed a deal with MIRA/Harlequein to write three Richard Poole murder mystery novels: A MEDITATION ON MURDER (2015), THE KILLING OF POLLY CARTER (2016) and DEATH KNOCKS TWICE (2017). A fourth, MURDER IN THE CARIBBEAN, was published in 2018.
He began the Marlow murder series in 2021.
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