— But you will be ready to say, what was your hope in doing this? — What did you look forward to? — To any thing, every thing — to time, chance, circumstances, slow effects, sudden bursts, perserverance and weariness ... Every possibility of good was before me, and the first of blessings secured ... — from Emma, by Jane Austen (1775-1817)
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January 28, 2012

Twelve Drummers Drumming



Bliss and Blessing, by contrast, were almost matey. Blessing, clearly the elder of the men, though junior in rank, took the lead, asking the questions and scribbling in a notebook, while Bliss twitched and occasionally barked a question. Chorea? Tourette's? Tom had wondered, realising belatedly that he was being drawn in sympathetically by their deficits, which may have been the strategy of this strange partnership:  Sorry for them, one might easily blab all, simply to bring a little cheer to their blighted lives. He wanted nothing more than a speedy solution of Sybella's death. But burned once and not entirely sympathetic to a breed that had yet to find his wife's killer or killers, his default was to hone to the line between verity and hearsay. Yes -- again, they noted, having looked a little into his background -- he had been the first to find the body, but -- lucky old you, grinned Blessing -- you weren't alone this time. Indeed not, Tom had observed, grimly, and relayed his version of the events of the May Fayre afternoon.
      And then followed what Tom thought of as the inkling question -- about his own movements late Sunday.
I've got so many books already piled up, and even more on reserve at the library, so I usually only browse the new book shelves for cookbooks when I go in. But when I looked at the new fiction, for once, last week, I found this book, the first in a new mystery series by C.C. Benison. {According to the biography on the book jacket, he's writing them in descending order -- the next one will be Eleven Pipers Piping.}

This was a very nice book to spend a couple of nights with...a comfortable, enjoyable read, kind of a cozy English village mystery, but with a modern setting. Benison's amateur sleuth (this is the kind of mystery where the police are in the background) is Tom Christmas, a stage magician turned Anglican vicar who has retreated to the village of Thornford Regis in Devon with his young daughter after his wife, Lisbeth, is murdered. A few months after his arrival, the villagers find the body of a young woman stuffed into a large Japanese drum meant to be used in a concert at the village's May Fayre. Tom is driven to find out why Sybella was killed, and his investigation comes to focus on an elderly colonel imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp during World War II, an artist who incorporates village scenes into art quilts, a verger who is secretive about his past, the sudden disappearance of the vicar who held the living before him, and his sister-in-law's crumbling marriage to the man Lisbeth was dating before she met Tom.

On the down side, there's almost too much exposition of what has happened to the leading characters before the murder happens, and too much setting up for what might happen in the next books. Some of the writing felt overblown and a little forced, and the resolution was both surprising (I didn't guess) and a little fumbly. But you know me...I'm back to my old pattern of being more interested in the recurring characters than in the crime, and if nothing else, I'm going to want to know whether Father Christmas (but don't call him that...it's not funny any more) ends up with Julia or Mairi.

2 comments:

JoAnn said...

Twelve Drummers Drumming, and Eleven Pipers Piping coming soon? I shy away from series, but do love these titles! Sounds like an enjoyable way to spend a couple of evenings. Hope you don't have to wait too long between books.

Elizabeth said...

I loved this book! I don't care for series either, but book was really good. Cant wait for the next one!

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