First Line: I wasn't put on this earth to be a vicar's-- even a rector's-- wife.
Jodie Welsh has always been a woman in charge. This fiftysomething runs and has competed in marathons. She's recently been made redundant from her high-flying London career, but she doesn't care-- she's already made a bundle through her business acumen and sagacious stock market decisions. Jodie felt it was time for her life to take a different direction, and it certainly has. Having fallen deeply in love with a vicar, she's now living in the picture postcard village of Lesser Hogben.
She's not typical vicar's wife material however, and she's still learning how to fit in with her fellow villagers as best she can. (She's wise enough to know that she can't tell a whiny parishioner to "get over it.") Out running one day, she notices a large construction site in a very out-of-the-way place, and she is very tempted to investigate, but the disappearance of the local boy who was helping her with the gardening puts all thought of that completely out of her mind-- especially when this disappearance marks the beginning of a series of escalating incidents.
I have long been a fan of Judith Cutler's writing-- especially her Fran Harman novels-- so I was very happy to see this first book in a new series. Once again the author has created a character that lives and breathes on the page. Jodie has a tendency to hold her husband's first wife up as a paragon-- whether she should or not-- but her heart is in the right place. Her husband works incredibly hard for the people of his parish, and Jodie makes it one of her primary goals to ensure that he has time away from people who seem to believe that he should be at their beck and call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Where she most comes into difficulties is in the world of finance. She's worked hard for years to be able to afford nice things, and she'd love to just throw money at all the problems of the parish and the village, but her husband won't allow her to. What's wonderful is to watch this woman in action. She may say she's not a delegator, but she certainly knows how to marshal the troops, think on her feet, and come up with beautifully creative solutions to some of the problems in Lesser Hogben. Yes, once again Judith Cutler gives the reader a wonderful sense of being in the midst of ordinary people getting on with their lives.
The mystery is slow to develop. There's no hint of danger, just a whiff of things not being as they should be, until halfway through the book, when Burble (her young gardener) disappears. Too many of the villagers have Burble marked down as a "bad sort," and I enjoyed watching Jodie stick to her conviction that something was wrong and work hard to find the young man-- even to the point of having a policeman friend (who just so happens to have ties to the aforementioned Fran Harman) to help her with her investigation.
It's worth reading Judith Cutler's mysteries solely for the wonderful characters she creates, but when I factor in her settings, her writing style, and her story lines... well, what can I say? I'll always come back for more. I'm really looking forward to reading Jodie's next adventure amongst those villagers of Lesser Hogben!
Death in Elysium by Judith Cutler
Severn House Publishers © 2014
eBook, 220 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #1 Jodie Welsh mystery
Source: Net Galley