When I came across ‘Murder at the Lighthouse’ by Frances Evesham it was a classic moment of serendipity. I was browsing in a charity shop and there was a complete set of the ‘Exham on Sea Mysteries’. It was my first sight of a novel in the cosy crime genre. Now I know there is a whole stream of such stories waiting to be read – think Agatha Raisin and the divine ‘Shakespeare and Hathaway’. I was intrigued but left the complete set for others to find and went and bought my own copy.
I always think it best to start with the first book of any series since no matter how skilful a writer is in bringing new readers up to date as the series progresses it is never as satisfying as being in at the beginning. I was glad that I followed my rule as I have so much to look forward to now.
‘Murder at the Lighthouse,’ is a charming story. Frances Evesham assembles her cast of characters – who you expect to be with for the long haul – with skill. They are an interesting bunch and typical of the genre. The central character, Libby, is a widow making her own way in the world having been released from a trying and repressive marriage. There’s a possible Watson figure in Mandy, a Goth teenager who comes to live with Libby as a lodger and a possible will they/won’t they romantic lead cum accomplice in Max – a shadowy figure but seemingly connected to either law enforcement or some darker element of society. They all come with interesting back stories which unfold seamlessly in the narrative.
There is also a delightful cast of animals. Most attractive to me was Bear, a huge Carpathian shepherd dog that Libby acquires in the course of her investigations. Then there’s Fuzzy the cat of whom I’m expecting good things. The author portrays the relationship between these animal characters – and they are well drawn characters – deftly.
The author also introduces a cast of peripheral characters that you just know are all going to have their turn in the spotlight. Not least of these is the Detective Sergeant Joe Ramshore who happens to be Max’s son. Will he turn in to a long term ally or will he be the policeman who wishes that Libby would just stay out of his way?
The victim of the murder is one Susie Bennett – once a child of the village but latterly a recording star who found fortune in America. Libby, having discovered the body, sets out to find the truth behind the crime in the face of initial police indifference.
The story lines – Libby’s personal journey, the pursuit of justice for the murder victim, the maybe romance with Max and Mandy the Goth’s story – are all carefully blended. There is tension and drama and a satisfactory ending although the actual crime and its solution do seem a bit thin.
I’m hooked of course. I’ll be following Libby and her friends in their later adventures with interest. There will certainly be a couple more Frances Evesham volumes in my luggage.
By the way – if you’d like a taster of Frances Evesham’s writing she is offering a free e-Book ‘Murder Most Victorian,’ at www.francesevesham.com/murder-most-victorian. I’m a fan of true crime stories so this went down a treat. Try it.