This week’s Throwback Thursday is The Skeletons of Birkbury, the first in the DCI Peter Hatherall murder/mystery series, published in 2012.
On the strength of reading and enjoying Who Killed Vivien Morse? a little while ago, I decided to start from the beginning and 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.
About the Book
One buried body.
Many hidden secrets.
When the body of a teenage girl is discovered, the villagers of Birkbury close ranks to protect their secrets.
Gossip turns to fear and suspicion as they realise the killer is one of them and is prepared to kill again.
Beneath the good manners and polite smiles, DCI Hatherall discovers deep-seated resentments and family feuds going back decades. The stakes are raised when another girl goes missing.
Will the police uncover the killer before it is too late?