I’m a great fan of M.R.C. Kasasian’s Gower Street Detective series having been introduced to it through an invitation from Clare at Head of Zeus to join the tour for the fifth in the series, Dark Dawn Over Steep House. Since then I’ve been acquiring the earlier books in the series so I can read the complete set at some point. You can imagine my excitement, therefore, when Clare contacted me to let me know about the author’s new series, The Betty Church Mysteries, and to invite me to host today’s stop on the blog tour for the first book in the series, Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire.
You can read my review below. Do also check out the review of my tour buddy, Linda at Books of All Kinds.
About the Book
September 1939. A new day dawns in Sackwater, not that this sleepy backwater is taking much notice…
Inspector Betty Church – one of the few female officers on the force – has arrived from London to fill a vacancy at Sackwater police station. But Betty isn’t new here. This is the place she grew up. The place she thought she’d left behind for good.
Time ticks slowly in Sackwater, and crime is of a decidedly lighter shade. Having solved the case of the missing buttons, Betty’s called to the train station to investigate a missing bench. But though there’s no bench, there is a body. A smartly dressed man, murdered in broad daylight, with two distinctive puncture wounds in his throat.
While the locals gossip about the Suffolk Vampire, Betty Church readies herself to hunt a dangerous killer.
Format: Hardcover, ebook (432 pp.) Publisher: Head of Zeus
Published: 12th July 2018 Genre: Historical Mystery
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Find Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire on Goodreads
Well, I don’t know about any of her police colleagues, but it didn’t take me long to have complete confidence that Inspector Betty Church could solve the mystery – or anything else she put her mind to, come to that. After all her godmother is the redoubtable March Middleton (from the author’s The Gower Street Detective series) who learned a thing or two about detection from guardian and mentor, Sidney Grice. And Betty’s had to overcome the loss of her arm in an accident, making her a sort of female equivalent of J K Rowling’s Cormoran Strike.
It’s no coincidence that Sackwater rhymes with ‘backwater’. As Betty observes, ‘Nothing much had changed but nothing ever did in the slow death that passed for life in Sackwater’. With its main street of small shops and tea rooms it put me in mind of Walmington-on-Sea, the fictional seaside town in the BBC TV series Dad’s Army. Betty needs all her wits about her because the rest of the police officers at Sackwater Central are not so much Dad’s Army as Keystones Cops. By turn, hopeless, cowardly, incompetent and intellectually challenged, the best of them is probably WPC Dodo Chivers. And that’s not saying much because she is a bit dotty and, I’m afraid to this reader, slightly irritating. However, that didn’t stop some of Dodo’s ditsy comments making me laugh out loud. “I had an aunt who was deaf… It made it very difficult for her to hear.”
Betty is independent-minded, courageous and resourceful and has a nice line in putdowns and one-liners. She’s a woman determined to succeed in what is, for the time being, a man’s world. In fact, she’s confident she can succeed where her male counterparts will fail. “When policemen tremble, we stand firm”, she confidently states. Betty’s certainly going to need to stand firm because pretty soon the bodies start to pile up, in increasingly gruesome fashion, and rumours start to fly around Sackwater. As that illustrious organ, the East Anglian Chronicle, reports ‘Suffolk Gripped in Vampire Terror’. ‘And I had thought we only had the Nazis to worry about’, observes Betty ruefully.
I’ll confess I did find myself wishing that Betty could find herself at least one capable sidekick to help in her investigations. The nearest she gets to anyone genuinely helpful is the editor of the local newspaper, Tobias Gregson, with his ‘cobalt blue eyes’ and ‘winning smile’. Hmm, romance in the air possibly?
The book has all of the trademark humour that fans of the author’s previous series have grown to love. At one point, Betty recalls, ‘I used to go out with a musician – a pianist – until it became obvious I wasn’t the only piece in his repertoire’. I did rather miss the random allusions to Sherlock Holmes stories from The Gower Street Detective series but, for the observant reader, there is consolation in the form of a reference to Ian Fleming’s most famous creation and the precursor of a scene from a well-known film starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson. And probably a few more that I missed…
Although nearly five hundred pages, the book‘s short chapters help to create an impression of pace. The author has some fun with the chapter titles. I particularly liked ‘The Mangled Sheep Murder‘, which I fancied was a play on the title of the first book in The Gower Street Detective series, The Mangle Street Murders.
Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire is a lively, fun and spirited read with a great protagonist and enlivened by the author’s zesty humour. I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Head of Zeus, in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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In three words: Light-hearted, engaging, mystery
Try something similar…The Mangle Street Murders by M.R. C. Kasasian
About the Author
M. R. C Kasasian was raised in Lancashire. He has had careers as varied as a factory hand, wine waiter, veterinary assistant, fairground worker and dentist.
He lives with his wife, in Suffolk in the summer and in Malta in the winter.
Connect with M. R. C. Kasasian
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