Edwina Davenport gets into reduced circumstances and has to advertise for someone to rent a room from her in Murder in an English Village, set in 1920, by Jessica Ellicott. She is happy when her brash, internationally adventurous famous friend from their youth, Beryll Helliwell, responds to the ad, coming to her rescue both financially and socially. But the same night that Beryll suggests to the local busybody that Edwina has really been serving undercover with Beryll for the king and is setting out to solve some secret case, someone tries to strangle Edwina with her scarf.
The pair think that someone has gotten alarmed at the prospect of having a crime discovered, but no one else in the town of Walmsley Parva will believe them, so the two set out to investigate, starting with the land girls who served nearby during the Great War. Edwina points out that one especially responsible land girl, Agnes, disappeared during her time in the war. Despite Edwina’s urging to look into it, the local Constable Gibbs refused to investigate because she saw all the land girls as “loose women.” After all, in their work on the farm, they wore pants! Horrors! Now Edwina and Beryll determine to look into Agnes’s disappearance, but the war ended over a year before, and the land girls have returned home. The two wildly different friends, one a dignified spinster and the other a flamboyant woman married several times, make an unusual team as they work together and must beat the murderer to the solution before one or both of them gets killed first.
Murder in an English Village caught my attention from the opening chapter and left me raptly listening throughout. The plot took various turns of interest and kept me really fascinated. The characters also were lively and well- rounded. I strongly pictured both Edwina and Beryll and found them an appealing pair. What’s more, the secondary characters came to life as well, helping me to stay guessing about the identity of the murderer based upon the individual and not just the person’s position in life.
I especially liked the historical portrayals of life immediately following World War I. They can’t adjust back to life as usual because too many things have changed in society. The book highlights some of the damages of war, such as men who either turn into extreme drunks or go almost catatonic to cope with the horrors they experienced in the war. It also brings up a feature people today are not commonly aware of, that of metal masks that those with facial disfigurements would have created to wear in order to hide their injuries. Men would wear such masks for the rest of their lives, never able to show facial expressions at all.
We also get a lot of insight into life in the home front during the war, in particular the land girls who committed to spending a year working hard on the farms to take the place of men who were in Europe fighting. We also see the black market that some farmers would participate in by cooking the books of their produce and meat supplies that they gave the government and selling items that didn’t exist officially at a large profit to people willing to pay.
The audio edition of this book is performed really strongly by Barbara Rosenblat. I actually came across this book on Audible when looking at books that Rosenblat has narrated because she impresses me so much. And I am so glad that I did find this book. Rosenblat does a fantastic job of making this book come alive, giving believable voices for each character and using effective infections and timing to portray the book.
Murder in an English Village has proven to be a highlight of the nearly two years that I have been reviewing audiobooks for Fangirl Nation Magazine. Given how many books I go through regularly (I reviewed 29 books in just the month of January 2018), this is a significant statement of the quality and my enjoyment of this book. I recommend this book to any mystery lover and to any history lover, but especially to the historical mystery lover. I give the book five stars!
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