STRICTLY MURDER by Julie Wassmer (Little Brown £8.99, 336 pp)


by Julie Wassmer (Little Brown £8.99, 336 pp)

Welcome to Whitstable, shellfish capital of Kent, where fresh food and air are tempered by the occasional murder. But restaurateur and private detective Pearl Nolan and her policeman boyfriend Mike are hot on the trail . . .

Their latest outing centres on a local dance school which teaches a tango to die for — literally in the case of a student.

As a tale of jealousy and betrayal unfolds, Pearl has to balance her investigative activities against the culinary demands of the seasonal influx of tourists. Mike is also under pressure from an inadequate superior who would like to transfer him to an outpost.

While a satisfying ending is guaranteed, attention-grabbing surprises make this one of the best episodes in Wassmer’s long-running Whitstable saga.

AN UNTIDY DEATH by Simon Brett (Severn House £20.99, 192 pp)


by Simon Brett (Severn House £20.99, 192 pp)

To work as a declutterer relieving people of accumulated rubbish is not obviously risky. But Ellen Curtis has a talent for attracting trouble.

When a potential client dies in a house fire, she is convinced it’s more than a tragic accident. The victim, a once-famous war correspondent, had held on to records that would make life awkward for former colleagues, not to mention her psychologically troubled daughter and her cloying partner. Might the fire have been started deliberately to destroy the evidence?

Simon Brett is usually associated with soft-centred crime fiction. This introduces a sharper note. The professional problems Ellen encounters extend to her own family, with a son who has debilitating depression.

An intriguing mystery is made more compelling by Brett’s sympathetic understanding of human frailties.


by Kate High (Constable £8.99, 336 pp)

You don’t have to be a felinophile to enjoy this book but cats play a big part in the life of Clarice Beech, who holds an open house for any stray which meows for help. Venturing into a ruined barn to rescue a cat from a beam, Clarice takes a heavy fall and lands on a partially buried body.

Working more or less amicably with her estranged husband, a police inspector who wants to revive their relationship, Clarice sets about exposing the deceits of an outwardly respectable family in the grip of blackmail.

If, perhaps, there are too many suspicious characters cluttering the plot, this debut promises to build into a popular series.

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