- Dogs DO need nice homes
- Three retired ladies are on a mission
- There is an appropriate amount of cake
Book review for The Charity Shop Detective Agency (2022) by Peter Boland
This weekend, I was in the mood for a cosy mystery.
As someone with very specific requirements for what I like in a mystery, I was browsing through all the options available when I came across The Charity Shop Detective Agency by Peter Boland.
The first thing that struck me was that this was going to be incredibly twee. And that was why I bought it with one click.
I’m incredibly glad I did.
Fiona is a retired women who works in the charity shop dogs need nice homes during the day. She retired from London to a small seaside town and is filling her days with what she considers to be good deeds, good friends and good cake.
Working with her in the charity shop are Sue and Daisy, also retired. These three women form a trio not to be trifled with. The skill-set they have between them is quite remarkable.
The story is told from Fiona’s point of view (with the exception of the very first scene in which the body is discovered). She is a reliable, practical and kind woman with just enough cynicism to keep her interesting as a main character.
Sue (known by Fiona as Partial Sue) is a pragmatic and penny-pinching ex-accountant who becomes Fiona’s right-hand woman in her investigation.
Daisy is the dreamer. She is the dithery, bohemian grandmother of the group who needs a little bit of guidance and who also, coincidentally, has a real knack for lock-picking.
There are other side characters who populate the town and the mystery. All of them are larger-than-life, interesting and (of course) potential suspects.
When Sarah Brown is found stabbed in the back in her own home by a Tesco’s delivery driver, Fiona and her chums at Dogs Need Nice Homes are sent reeling. Sarah was a regular customer to the charity shop and Fiona considered her a good friend. She can’t then, in good conscience, leave it up to the police to investigate Sarah’s death.
However, Sarah’s murder is only the beginning. The killer plans to strike again and the would-be detectives need to catch them before they can.
I really enjoyed this mystery. There were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing, and some peril for our heroines.
How much cake can one woman eat?
In my case, the answer would be ‘a lot’ and I’m pleased to inform you that Fiona, Sue and Daisy can certainly keep up with me. The sheer amount of cake that is eaten in this short novel is astounding.
This is all part of its charm. It is a cosy mystery that is self-consciously English in all the best ways. From the instinctive reaching for the kettle in an emergency, references to Marks & Spencer’s and Waitrose, to the horror of somebody being impolite, it’s an incredibly familiar world.
If you like Fantasy and want to indulge in some cosy fantasy with an equally indulgent amount of cake, check out Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree.
Not all twee and tea
There were a surprising number of deep themes in this novel. They weren’t explored in gritty, gruelling detail but they were there. They were mentioned, they formed part of the plot, and they made the world feel fully formed.
The most obvious themes explored in this book are age, ageism, disability and loneliness. This is done through the fact that there are three single older women working together and becoming friends, and that the victim is also older, lives alone, and has no family to rely on.
There are also references to depression, grief and loss. A rival charity-worker demonstrates racism and, since I expect her to become a series-character and appear in the next books, I hope that she will either get her comeuppance or (even better) learn to examine and overcome her prejudices.
If cosy murder mysteries are your thing, and particularly if small-town English mysteries are your thing, then this is definitely one that should go on your list.
It’s interesting, well-written and is a cracking little mystery. Also, if nothing else, the name of the charity that Fiona works for is pure gold in itself.
One thought on “Twee, Tea and Murder Mystery”