Author: Connie Berry
Published: June 2021 by Crooked Lane Books
Category: Cosy Murder Mystery, Police Procedural, Book Review
Spring is a magical time in England–bluebells massing along the woodland paths, primrose and wild thyme dotting the meadows. Antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, enjoying precious time with Detective Inspector Tom Mallory. While attending the May Fair, the annual pageant based on a well-known Anglo-Saxon folktale, a body turns up in the middle of the festivities.
I was a little concerned when asked if I’d like to review The Art of Betrayal as it’s the third book in a series. Thankfully, it works perfectly well as a standalone with enough background information woven through the narrative that I didn’t feel at a loss at any stage.
Kate Hamilton, an Antiques dealer from America, is spending some time in the village of Long Barston, managing her good friend Ivor Tweedy’s antique shop, The Cabinet of Curiosities, while he recovers from surgery. When Evelyn Villiers came into the shop one morning with a very valuable Chinese húnpíng jar to sell, and the promise of more items from her late husband’s collection, Kate was intrigued. Not only by the thought of quality merchandise and how much it would help Ivor, but by Evelyn herself, who wanted her privacy guaranteed and only wanted to be contacted by text.
Something floated in the air—a vague uneasiness. Why didn’t Mrs Villiers answer her phone? To avoid telemarketers?
I stood at the front window and watched her cross the High Street and turn left towards the river. She scurried past the shops—shoulders hunched, head bent—until she disappeared down a side street.
All had been going well — Ivor was on the mend, Kate was enjoying spending time with DI Tom Mallory and running the shop — until that night at the annual May Fair pageant, based on a local legend. Just as The Green Maiden performers were taking their final bows, a woman stumbled through the audience towards the stage and collapsed. She had been fatally stabbed. Then Tom gets a call about a break in at Ivor’s shop. As he and Kate rush over to the shop they discover the húnpíng jar is missing.
The Art of Betrayal was a thoroughly enjoyable cosy mystery where some things aren’t quite what they seem. Kate’s first person narrative lets the reader discover information and clues alongside Kate as the investigation progresses.
Both Kate and Tom are mature, likeable protagonists, insightful and quick-witted. Their relationship is realistic although not straightforward, with one based in America and the other in England, not to mention Tom’s disapproving mother. The secondary characters are also well realised.
The plot is quite intricate, with twists and misleading clues, incorporating among other things folklore and family dynamics, while running alongside issues such as Tom investigating an invasive drugs ring operating in the area, and local, Lady Barbara, trying to entice the National Trust to take over her extensive property. The fictional setting of Long Barston is lovely. I look forward to the next instalment.
Many thanks to Maryglenn Warnock for my review copy.
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Connie Berry is the author of the Kate Hamilton Mysteries, set in the UK and featuring an American antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes. Like her protagonist, Connie was raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel. During college she studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany and St. Clare’s College, Oxford, where she fell under the spell of the British Isles. In 2019 Connie won the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery and was a finalist for the Agatha Award’s Best Debut. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and is on the board of the Guppies and her local Sisters in Crime chapter. Besides reading and writing mysteries, Connie loves history, foreign travel, cute animals, and all things British. She lives in Ohio with her husband and adorable Shih Tzu, Emmie.
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