- Author: Diana J Febry
- Published: May 2012 by Wings ePress, Inc.
- Category: Murder, Mystery
Twenty years ago no connection was made between the disappearance of a girl from Cheltenham and a fatal car accident in the small village of Birkbury. But that changes when the body is found buried in Birkbury and there are two further car accidents and a local girl goes missing.
On the strength of reading and enjoying Who Killed Vivien Morse? a little while ago, I added The Skeletons of Birkbury, the first in the series and Diana J Febry’s debut novel, to my reading list. And I wasn’t disappointed. The setting, in a rural village location, was realistically described with the horse and farming community. A great mix of diverse and representational characters add to the appeal, from the ‘gentry’ to the older more civil, sometimes nosey, salt of the earth villagers, although they can appear quite uncooperative at times.
When a storm uproots an oak tree, and the skeleton of a teenager is discovered underneath, Detective Inspector Fiona Williams and Chief Inspector Peter Hatherall begin the less than straightforward investigation to find the perpetrator, navigating the arrogance, reticence and strong emotions they encounter.
As soon as they pulled off the motorway, they were plunged onto small country lanes as they descended a steep incline towards the village of Birkbury. A small sign announced they had entered the village. Fiona said, “ It looks too quaint and peaceful to have such a horrid history.”
“It has a decent pub as well,” Peter replied. He brought the car to a standstill by the sign for Rooksbridge Holiday Cottages and Livery Yard. They were met at the gate by a small man in a cloth cap who seemed to belong to a much earlier era.
The colourful characters are very well drawn, realistic and imperfect. Both Fiona and Peter have their own personal issues to work though, as do several of the cast. All are developed and dealt with according to their relevance, with details of daily life adding to the authenticity. I love having background to the main characters especially, establishing personalities and giving them a life outside of the job. The history of the village, and the families past and present, is depicted well, heightening the suspense and the question of whodunit.
As the investigation gradually progresses, uncovering layers and clues, it seems a lot of people in Birkbury are harbouring secrets. Unraveling truth from lies and corruption is a time consuming business for Peter and Fiona. This typically English murder/mystery is reminiscent of Midsomer Murders (but with much less blood) or Miss Marple, with it’s quirky villagers, list of suspects and intricate, well crafted and thought through plot. An evenly paced narrative, merging together the often fraught relationships between the villagers with the murder enquiry, realistic dialogue and great descriptions of rural living result in a very entertaining mystery.