This is the second book in the author’s new series featuring Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, a member of the West Sussex, England Murder Squad. Harbinder is 36 but still lives at home with her Punjabi parents, with whom she gets along well although they don’t know she is gay. But her mother is a good cook, after all. Harbinder is peppery, witty, and very clever, but underestimated by her peers, much to her chagrin.
In this installment, a young Ukrainian care worker, Natalka Kolisnyk, comes to see Harbinder about her suspicions that a client, Peggy Smith, although 90, did not die of old age but was murdered. Peggy was in excellent shape and seemed in fine health just the day before. Natalka explains that while cleaning up Peggy’s apartment along with Peggy’s friend and neighbor Edwin (a dapper and young-at-heart 80-year-old), the two found a number of alarming signs that Peggy’s death could have had a more sinister cause than just “old age.” Peggy’s apartment was full of mystery books, and a surprising number of them were dedicated to Peggy. Moreover, Natalka found a business card identifying Peggy as a “murder consultant.” Then she saw a postcard with the ominous message: “We are coming for you.” But the biggest sign something was unusual was that while Natalka and Edwin were in the flat, a masked person came in with a gun and stole one of the mystery books – very odd indeed!
Harbinder agreed to look into it, especially after one of the mystery authors who dedicated his books to Peggy was murdered soon after Peggy’s death. He too had received a threatening postcard.
Meanwhile, Natalka, Edwin, and Benedict, an ex-monk who ran the local coffee shop, take off on a hilarious Scooby-Doo type mission to an Aberdeen book festival to try and find out what was going on. Harbinder now had to chase after them in addition to doing her own investigation, as well as arranging for her injured mother to have a caregiver (Natalka recommended one for her) while Harbinder was in Aberdeen.
The plot thickens with more murders, mysterious Ukrainian thugs, and romantic complications. As if that weren’t enough to keep readers entertained, there are red herrings and twists galore.
Evaluation: Griffiths’s main protagonists always manage to come across as wryly funny and even adorable. The author’s sense of humor is so delightful that I often find myself laughing out loud even while reading about murder. For fans of murder mysteries like those of Anthony Horowitz that feature books within the books and explore the world of writers, literary agents, and publishers, for my money Griffiths is much better. Her tongue-in-cheek self-deprecatory takes on authors and the book industry are funny and insightful rather than tediously self-aggrandizing, as I find Horowitz to be. One can’t help loving Griffiths’ recurring characters, and I can’t wait to read more about them.
Published in the U.S. by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021