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"If you are reading this, then in all likelihood I am dead."
These are the opening words to A DANGEROUS GOODBYE by Fliss Chester, the charming new historical mystery series featuring cryptic crossword cluer, Fenella Churche. An intriguing debut filled with spies, codes and murder with a touch of Miss Marple meets Father Brown.
West Sussex, 1944: Land girl Fen Churche (yes, like the station) receives a letter at her lodgings with those opening words written by her fiance Arthur, who has been stationed somewhere in France for the past year. Much of his letter would be redacted due to classification but Arthur is wise enough to pepper his correspondence with cryptic clues for Fen to figure out his location. So does this letter mean he is trouble?
Whatever the case may be, Fen knows she must crack the code to the clues he has given her and let them lead her. But what did it all mean?
France, 1945: With the war now over and the British War Office refusing to tell her anything, Fen has decoded enough of Arthur's last letter to lead her to a quaint French village and chateau with a vast vineyard. Although seemingly abandoned in somewhat of a ruined state, Fen manages to gain employment in the chateau's vineyard. Having been a land girl throughout the war, she was ripe for the task. She was immediately roomed with Estelle, a grumpy housekeeper and nursery maid, who didn't take kindly to sharing a room.
Fen meets the occupants of the chateau at dinner that night - patriarch Clement Bernard, son Pierre, wife Sophie and their two young children, as well as Hubert from the vineyard and fellow countryman, James Lancaster. She's already met Estelle and that reception was more than a little frosty. And she can't help but wonder what does this place and these people have to do with Arthur? Fen is just bursting to ask questions but knows she must bide her time.
The following evening the village hosts a fete in honour of their patron saints Gabriel and Michael. Everyone seems to come alive with feasting and dancing - even churlish Estelle and the grouchy Hubert. She briefly meets Father Marchand and has the feeling he has something to tell her, but the moment passes. The evening ends when there is a scream and Sophie is discovered to have fallen and twisted her ankle.
Breakfast is a subdued affair with a couple of hangovers and an injured hostess. But when Father Marchand joins them for breakfast and is coaxed into an almond croissant, no one expects him to fall down dead after just a couple of bites. It is quickly determined that he was poisoned and the French police arrive to arrest James. Fen does not believe James is a murderer and sets about to prove his innocence, with the mystery of what became of Arthur set aside. Soon after there is another death, however this one is to be deemed an accident...but Fen is not so sure. She does some stealthy investigating to prove otherwise. Until there is a third murder.
The murders are not as straightforward as police had at first thought with all clues leading back to the German occupation during the war and Arthur's presence, and subsequent disappearance, in the village. Fen believes that if she can decipher all of Arthur's clues, then she will be able to identify the murderer and hopefully discover his fate. Joining forces with James, the two set out to lay a trap that they hope will uncover the murderer.
This quiet quaint little French village has turned into an Agatha Christie novel with Fen a Miss Marple and Father Brown rolled into one! Although it could be forgiven for being mistaken for a quaint Midsomer village, if it wasn't for being in France.
Admittedly, A DANGEROUS GOODBYE was somewhat slow to start and although it was marginally interesting in her quest for answers into what became of Arthur, it wasn't until around 40% that the book became much more intriguing...beginning with the first murder. And despite all the murders it is still very much a lighthearted read that is quite enjoyable.
I had no trouble identifying the murderer but I don't think that was down to the author's lack of experience in this genre. A DANGEROUS GOODBYE is meant to be a lighthearted historical mystery with no devious depth to it that we would find in much darker reads. Although, having said that, Ms Christie herself was very adept at hiding the identity of her murderers rather cleverly though I still think the author did a tremendous job of masking the guilty whilst surreptitiously drip feeding us clues through Fen as to who it could be.
I look forward to seeing where Fen Churche takes us next and I do hope she brings James Lancaster along with her. I think the two make a good team.
Well plotted and easy to read, A DANGEROUS GOODBYE is a light an entertaining read that would appeal to fans of Rhys Bowen, Agatha Christie and Father Brown. I have no hesitation in recommending it.
I am excited to be taking part in the BooksOnTour BlogTour for Fliss Chester's debut mystery A DANGEROUS GOODBYE.
A thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery set in the wine growing region Burgundy just after World War II. Fen and her fiance are crossword lovers, so when she receives a cryptic last letter from Arthur telling her that in all likelihood he is dead, she is determined find the truth. Shortly after her arrival in France, she is faced with a murder. Well written, with lots of twists and turns. Highly recommended for fans of mystery and intrigue.
Thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters and locations are delightfully described and they really come alive, I felt transported back to post-War France. The plot kept me guessing and and I even learnt how to solve the odd cryptic crossword clue! Highly recommended.
Excellent story that draws you in to the world of Fenn Churche and an intriguing first mystery - fun, interesting and I really didn't want to put it down. I have a new passion for cryptic crossword puzzles now too... I look forward to the next instalment!
Once I picked this up, I couldn’t put it down as I was immediately hooked. All thoughts of childcare and chores were temporarily abandoned as I found myself engrossed in the story, quietly hidden away from my family. Absolutely loved this!
This book had me engaged from the first page. I loved it fennella was inspirational and I loved the cryptic clues with the cross words. I Was not sure of the murderer and I was sad when I finished the book . It says this is book one so I look forward too reading more of her adventures. I fully recommend.