Thursday, July 23, 2009

An English Murder by Louise Doughty

Title: An English Murder
Author: Louise Doughty
ISBN: 0440236878, Dell Publishing, 2001
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Amateur Sleuth
Rating: B+

First Line: It was four days before the bodies were discovered, by which time Mr. Cowper had begun to mottle.

I'm not quite sure what I expected when I began reading this book. A cozy little mystery involving an amateur sleuth in a picture postcard English village, I think.

I got a lot more than I bargained for.

Alison Akenside is the chief reporter for the Rutland Record. Unfortunately she lives in Nether Bowston, a village in which nothing ever happens. At the beginning of An English Murder, Alison is a compassionate young woman who wants her "big break" into the dailies of London. She feels sad when she realizes that she was in her garden tending her flowers while the bodies of her neighbors, Thomas and Edith Cowper, were lying in their home a few doors down.

Not only were the Cowpers murdered, but their teen aged daughter Gemma has gone missing, and Alison begins to think that this murder case is her ticket to London. If she can scoop everyone else, find Gemma and learn the identity of the murderer, she's a shoo-in for bigger and better things.

While Alison ponders how to win her brass ring, we learn about her background and that of the missing girl. We're also treated to a little history about Rutland, which in the 1970s had lost its county status and become a part of Leicestershire, only to regain it in the late 1990s:

It was mentioned in the Domesday Book, she discovered-- which seemed very fin de siecle-- although at that time it was little more than a ditch on the way to Northumbria. It was always being bequeathed to people-- queens, dukes, mistresses-- as if the county and its people were an expensive lapdog.

But as we're learning more about Rutland and as we're learning about Gemma and Alison, the tone of the book subtly begins to shift. Something nasty, unpleasant and psychologically unbalanced begins to stir in Nether Bowston, and An English Murder turns into Cozy Noir.

Some people may not like Doughty's book, thinking that the plot is insubstantial and meanders off into nothingness. I was delighted by the shift and the unexpected depth toward the end. I was so concerned with looking for the crocodiles on the sandbanks that I felt completely safe wading into the water...where Doughty grabbed me with one snap of her jaws.

I am now looking for other books by Louise Doughty. I want to see if she can lead me astray once more.


  1. It's fun to have a completely different reading experience than the one you expected. I've looked her up at my library and they have some titles so I will add her to my 'check out' list. Thanks.

  2. Yes, I enjoyed this too, although it was called Honey Dew over here. It is a little strange as the story takes on different qualities at different points in the story, but that's not a criticism. I have Dance with Me on my TBR pile, which I'm looking forward to.

  3. How will I ever keep up with the mysteries you suggest? Love the sound of this one. Thanks, Cathy!

  4. " I was so concerned with looking for the crocodiles on the sandbanks that I felt completely safe wading into the water...where Doughty grabbed me with one snap of her jaws."

    Excellent! but I agree I will never catch up on all the great mysteries you recommend. Switch to a genre I don't like, please. lol

  5. Is this the same Louise Doughty who wrote 'A Novel in a Year'?

    Btw... the blog is looking gorrrrrrrgeous!

  6. I confess: I added it to my list even before I wrote this comment :D

  7. Bernadette--I've written a couple of her titles down, but haven't done anything about locating them yet. As soon as I finish responding to comments....!

    Tim--I'm glad you stopped by to let me know that you enjoyed the book, too. I can see it bothering people who don't like having their assumptions proved wrong!

    Jenclair--You're welcome! (And there's no way I'm ever going to keep up with my own TBR shelves, so we're even! LOL)

    Caite--Hey! I just posted a non-fiction review. Does that count? :)

    Kim--I just looked her up on Fantastic Fiction. Yes, it is the same author. Got any good words about that book?

    Dorte--You have your priorities straight!

  8. I'm definitely adding this mystery to my list. I love the idea of a cozy noir! For some reason this sort of reminds me of the Louise Penny books - would you say that's the case?

  9. Oh lord! I'm not as fast as Dorte, but as soon as I catch up on your posts, I'm going to see if this one is at the library.

  10. Iliana--Although their styles are very different (and Doughty's was much more menacing toward the end), I would have to agree with Penny being Cozy Noir as well.

    Beth--Happy hunting!


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