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Mrs. Malory and a Death in the Family (2006)

by Hazel Holt

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Sheila Malory is not happy when her obnoxious cousin Bernard comes to visit her looking for information for the family tree he is working on. It's all she can do to be polite to him and his timid wife Janet. Other family members also aren't pleased to see him - many of them have secrets long buried that he is uncovering. But as bothersome as Bernard is, Sheila is still shocked when he is found in his rented cottage with his head bashed in. Sheila wonders why someone would commit such a violent act and begins to investigate his death. She has plenty of suspects - not only did Bernard dig up secrets people wanted hidden, his actions as headmaster of a private school hurt more than one person. Also, his family isn't exactly grieving - his wife has come out of her shell and admits she never loved him; his daughter Christine has money issues and could use the inheritance; and he kept his gay son Luke from seeing his own mother.

"Mrs. Malory and A Death in the Family' is a nice gentle cozy mystery. The emphasis is on cozy because the mystery itself is slight. I don't read Hazel Holt's Mrs. Malory series for the mystery, what I enjoy about the series is the emphasis on the characters and their everyday life. Author Hazel Holt spends much time describing the day to day activities of Mrs. Malory as she goes about shopping, cleaning the house, working in the yard, feeding her pets, doing volunteer work, etc. and she feels like a real live character. The other characters are equally well written especially the obnoxious Bernard; his wife Janet who is not as meek and timid as she appears to be; his gay son Luke who loves his mother and would do anything for her; and daughter Christine who is just like her father. Other well-written characters include Sheila's friend Rosemary who is fretting over plans for her Ruby Wedding Anniversary, Sheila's son Michael, his wife Thea and young daughter Alice. The mystery tends to get lost at times and the ending is a bit abrupt and unsatisfactory, a common flaw in the Mrs. Malory series. Still, I enjoy the character of Sheila Malory and reading about English life in a small village so much that I'm willing to overlook the flaws.

Fans of cozy mysteries set in small British villages will enjoy reading about Sheila Malory and her neighbors and friends. ( )
  drebbles | Jan 30, 2013 |
Hazel Holt’s Sheila Malloy has been likened to a modern day Miss Marple. There are some similarities. Shelia lives a quiet, unremarkable life in a village where she lives in happy retirement taking part in community activities.

When it comes to amateur detectives, maintaining believability can be a challenge, one that Holt has met quite well. Holt has commendably refrained from allowing her protagonist to be put into ridiculously dangerous situations that blind Freddy could see are ill-advised. Sheila’s investigations are limited to visiting various family members and questioning them about Bernard’s visit.

The plot is fairly simple and straightforward. There are no tricksy twists. No hidden surprises waiting to leap out of the closet. If there is a criticism it is that the details about Sheila’s life is a little too mundane. There are only so many times you can read about Sheila being asked to bake a cake for an afternoon tea and maintain interest. Having said that, A DEATH IN THE FAMILY is a quick, entertaining read which will appeal to those whose crime fiction tastes are on the lighter side.
  sunniefromoz | Mar 31, 2008 |
Mrs Malory Mysteries are one of my favorite series. You feel as if you know all the village characters in Ms Holt's books. Mrs Mallory copes with a loathesome cousin who is doing some genealogical research. When the horrible Bernard is killed, Sheila Malory sets out to find his killer. ( )
  arl5n5 | Mar 14, 2007 |
When amateur genealogist Bernard Prior comes a calling, his cousins have every reason to ignore his knock on the door. Bernard is pompous, overbearing and takes sadistic pleasure in unearthing family secrets his relatives hoped would remain hidden. But Sheila Malory is too polite to keep Bernard, a retired headmaster, and his long-suffering wife/secretarial assistant Janet waiting on her doorstep.

Obnoxious he may be, but only a handful of people have good reasons to wish Bernard dead -- among them some of Sheila’s own cousins. When Sheila discovers Bernard’s body in his rented Taviscombe cottage, she is driven to do some amateur sleuthing to find out who among her relatives tried to crush his skull. What she discovers is a long list of hateful acts Bernard perpetrated on people far and wide – including one so ugly Sheila’s cousin, Sister Veronica, thanks God for his demise!

I read most of the earlier books featuring Sheila Malory, but for some reason I haven’t read the last few – so I was quite pleased to have Mrs. Malory and a Death in the Family sent to me for review. Hazel Holt’s books are quintessential “English village” mysteries and Sheila, a retired and very proper widow, is definitely a descendent of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. Although Mrs. Malory and a Death in the Family didn’t contain a list of Hazel Holt’s earlier books in the series, cozy readers will be happy to learn Hazel Holt has written 14 other mysteries featuring Mrs. Malory -- and possibly more I wasn’t able to locate in a quick Internet search.

Readers who are themselves avid family historians (as I am) will find lots to like in Mrs. Malory and a Death in the Family. They may even notice a bit of themselves in Bernard’s over-zealous efforts to drag cousins kicking and screaming into his genealogy hobby. A family tree would have been a nice addition to help readers keep relationships straight.

By Diana. First published in Mystery News, Dec. 2006-Jan. 2007 Issue. ( )
  NewsieQ | Dec 26, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451219899, Mass Market Paperback)

Sheila Malory is less than thrilled when her loathsome cousin Bernard comes to Taviscombe looking for information to complete his family tree. After all, she's got better things to do than listen to Bernard's pompous genealogical lectures and watch him berate his mousy wife. But when Bernard dies suddenly in his rented cottage, it's more than family obligation that keeps Mrs. Malory on the case. Someone wanted Bernard out of the way, and with all the dirt he was digging up on the family, the killer could be more than kin...and less than kind.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:37 -0400)

Sheila Malory is less than thrilled when her loathsome cousin Bernard comes to Taviscombe looking for information to complete his family tree. After all, she's got better things to do than listen to Bernard's pompous genealogical lectures and watch him berate his mousy wife. But when Bernard dies suddenly in his rented cottage, it's more than family obligation that keeps Mrs. Malory on the case. Someone wanted Bernard out of the way, and with all the dirt her was digging up on the family, the killer could be more than kin..and less than kind.… (more)

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