The Last Word

Detective Inspector Kaur, who fans of Elly Griffiths will know from her Harbinder Kaur mystery series, may drop in and out of The Last Word, but the book is fueled by a trio of Shoreham-by-Sea amateur detectives. Readers who fondly remember these three characters from The Postscript Murders may find their affection becoming ardor while consuming this equally character-driven successor.

Ukraine-born care worker Natalka Kolisnyk and opera-loving octogenarian Edwin Fitzgerald have formed a detective agency following their friend's death, which was explored in The Postscript Murders. Finally they have, as Natalka puts it, "a proper case, not just stupid divorce stuff": Minnie Barnes believes that her mother, romance writer Melody Chambers, has been murdered. The death has been attributed to a heart attack, but Minnie is convinced that Melody's second husband--a pharmacist--replaced Melody's blood pressure medicine with poison in order to inherit her estate. As evidence, Minnie shows Natalka one of her mother's notebooks, in which Melody wrote, "I think my husband is going to kill me." Or are these words intended for a novel, as Melody's husband told the police?

Griffiths's irresistible premise leads Edwin and Benedict--Natalka's ex-Benedictine monk boyfriend--to go undercover at a writing retreat that Melody attended. The retreat produces not just a corpse but also some possibly incriminating writing exercises from the visiting authors. The novel's resolution is a little shaggy, but the friendships among its three outsider sleuths make The Last Word a transporting cozy mystery, albeit one with teeth. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

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