A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall
Publication Date: March 17, 2022
Summary from NetGalley:
Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.
But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.
By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.
The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.
But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…
Sit down with a cup of tea, a slice of cake and this perfectly witty, page-turning cosy crime novel.
ARC provided by Avon Books via NetGalley for an honest review.
While I overall ended up liking this story, I did have a few issues with it as well. It wasn’t exactly what I would classify as a cozy mystery, as it does deal with some heavy issues. But it was realistic in its portrayal of older women and some of the issues they deal with.
The story is mainly told through the three retired teachers, Thelma, Pat and Liz. I initially had a lot of trouble keeping track of who was who, and their particular circumstances, but once I got them figured out I began to appreciate their characters and even to like them. I did find it rather interesting that they mostly figured out parts of the mystery on their own, without consulting each other. They then would fill each other in on what they did when they met, but still not typical in these types of mysteries.
The story itself was well done, if not really surprising. There were perhaps too many side stories going on, many of them having to do with the family of the three women, and most of them had nothing to do with the central mystery. These side stories while interesting and perhaps some of them meant as red herrings, unfortunately only served to slow down the narrative and move the story away from the central who done it. Also I pretty much knew who did it from the get go, although I kept hoping I was wrong.
Some of the storylines dealt with the issues many older people face, dementia, elder fraud and people basically taking advantage of them. These heavier themes were done well and I appreciated them in the story. They were realistically done and I liked how the three women were able to thwart one of men taking advantage of the elderly. But they also at times made the story a bit depressing and took away from the feeling that this was meant to be a cozy mystery.
The writing was good, but at times was bogged down in descriptions of food and clothing and other things. The setting was nicely done though, especially the descriptions of the weather and countryside.
Overall a good read, that gets a little slow at times. It does deal with some heavy issues but does them well, and does a good job of developing female characters of a certain age. It also has some fun quirky characters which are the hallmark of the cozy mystery.