Death Comes to Marlow

Fiction has its share of elderly female amateur sleuths, but most of them aren't known to skinny-dip in the river Thames. Judith Potts--widow and professional crossword setter--is a category-all-her-own creation of Robert Thorogood, who follows the Edgar Award-nominated The Marlow Murder Club with Death Comes to Marlow, a singularly clever locked-room mystery.

Judith is outside at a party hosted by Sir Peter Bailey on the eve of his second marriage when everyone hears a terrific crash from within the house. They scurry inside, and Tristram, Sir Peter's son from his first marriage, breaks down the locked door to his father's study. They find Sir Peter alone and dead, crushed by a mahogany cabinet. Tristram would seem to be the prime suspect--he'd lose his path to inheritance upon his father's remarriage--but Judith wonders: "How did he manage to kill his father considering he was outside talking to us when he died?" Furthermore, how was Sir Peter murdered when his study door was locked from the inside?

An elder sleuth in a pastoral setting is a hallmark of the cozy mystery, and Thorogood writes with coy awareness of the subgenre, as when Judith sheepishly admits that she got some of her detective smarts from Murder, She Wrote. As for the plot, Thorogood leaves hints throughout Death Comes to Marlow that only Judith manages to piece together by novel's end. At one point someone says to Judith of her cryptic crosswords, "Your clueing is wonderful." So is Thorogood's. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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