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Call the Dead Again by Ann Granger
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Call the Dead Again

by Ann Granger

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This was selected by my book group and is the 11th book in the Mitchell and Markby stories, a series of cosy crime stories set in a village in the Cotswolds. The cover showcases a large house and prepares the reader for a typical who-dunnit.

Meet Kate Drago

When Meredith Mitchell spots a hitch-hiker one cold evening she feels compelled to give her a lift but is surprised when the girl requests a drop-off outside Tudor Lodge, the beautiful home of well-known lawyer Andrew Penhallow. Who exactly is Kate? And what business can she possibly have there?

Later that night, Penhallow is murdered in his garden. His death leads to some surprising revelations involving his young visitor. Could Kate be a murderess? Or is she actually in danger? Gradually local police superintendent Alan Markby discovers that Kate was not the only person to have dealings with the deceased. Meanwhile, his colleague Sergeant Prescott has inconveniently fallen in love with the chief suspect…

Cosy village crime

This is a very gentle story. I felt the pace was just right, but there is a gradual build-up to everything. Even the opening feels surprisingly menacing when there is little happening. There is a feeling that Kate’s arrival in the village heralds menace; the words ‘conniving’ and ‘conspiring’ are used and the two characters who give her lifts are made extremely uncomfortable by her offish manner. This creates an evil mood despite the actual chain of events being quite banal. It also helps to establish Kate as a plausible potential killer, which is helpful to create a bit of suspense.

The murderer is pretty obvious from the beginning, as is Kate’s relationship with Penhallow. The local cops are shocked by the ‘revelation’ of their connection, but the reader shouldn’t be. I did not find being able to predict the ending a problem as there were sufficient alternative possibilities offered as the story developed. I quite liked feeling like I was a step ahead of the police, although I have faith that the police are more competent in real life!

The structure of the story helps to create a ‘gentle’ feel as the focus of the narrative alternates between Markby and his girlfriend Mitchell. Sometimes one informs the other of something the reader already knows but this never felt redundant or irritating. I think the cover and blurb of the book establish the genre of the story so clearly that potential readers would not mistake this for anything other than a cosy village tale, so this kind of gentle build-up is pleasant rather than frustrating.

As the book is part of a series that focuses on the actions of these two characters there is some development in their relationship. I imagine regular fans of the series would find that this added to their enjoyment. However, their relationship is not a major element in the story, which pleased me as a new reader. It meant that I didn’t find long romantic scenes intruding on the plot and distracting me from the core storyline.

What did jolt me a little were the occasional intrusions from the narrator, such as ‘If either one of them had spotted the other, it might have led to explanations and made a difference. But there again, it might not.’ Rather than establish the ‘reality’ of the story (by suggesting alternative outcomes) I found that comments like this pulled me out of the story and reminded me that the whole thing was a fictional construct. Fortunately, there were only a few of these references.

There is a strong sense of village life and local scoundrels and gossips abound. There was one scene that I felt was rather unrealistic (when Meredith instructs a local ne’er-do-well to lay off crime) but otherwise the relationships were convincingly depicted. One elderly character reflects that “I don’t have one of them plastic cards” and pontificates on the increasing danger of life. I think this realism is a strength of the book as the believable background helps to make the actual plot more likely. Similarly there is simple, effective description throughout the book which heightens the drama of key moments.

I liked the central characters and this helped me to enjoy the book. Mitchell is nosy but pleasant; Markby is hardworking and determined. I did not find them especially interesting characters and would not be driven to read another book in the series to find out more about them or their relationship, but I would happily read another book that had featured these characters.

Conclusions

This is quintessential Cosy Crime: comforting and rather predictable in an enjoyable way. Regular readers will no doubt enjoy the slight developments in the relationship between Markby and Mitchell, but new readers need not fear: this book worked well as a standalone read. If I felt in the mood for this kind of writing, I would happily pick up another book from anywhere in the series.

The plot is sufficiently twisty while reaching an understandable conclusion. The main characters are sympathetic. The pace is gentle but relatively brisk throughout so the story is easy to follow. Chapters are a manageable size for reading in one sitting (varying from approximately 10 to 16 pages) and each ends on a definite sense of conclusion, a bit like a scene in a play. I much prefer this to the overly dramatic cliff-hangers you tend to find in (e.g.) James Patterson’s books.

My hardback copy has been borrowed from the library. It feels sturdy despite its age (published in 1998) and the binding on my copy has remained secure despite repeated loans over the years. The RRP of £16.99 seems rather steep because although this is a pleasant and enjoyable read it isn’t a particularly exciting one. At 250 pages it is a fairly typical length and won’t take forever to read. I would look out for it second hand or borrow it as I don’t think it would repay a second reading; what felt enjoyably predictable on a first read could well be irritatingly predictable on a second reading.

A pleasant example of the genre. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Jan 1, 2012 |
I have been reading the Mitchell and Markby series for some time, but I took a hiatus from the series for awhile as I was reading other things. This book is just as good as the others in the series. I love this series and the duo of Meredith and Alan is wonderful. These are English village mysteries, but the characters are always wonderful, and the mystery is usually complex. It was great to get back to this wonderful series and to lose myself in the village of Bamford again. These books do not disappoint at all. ( )
  Romonko | Oct 17, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 074725642X, Paperback)

When Meredith Mitchell picks up a hitchhiker on a lonely road outside Bamford one evening she is left feeling distinctly uneasy. What business can this confident, yet secretive, young woman have at Tudor Lodge, the beautiful old home of Brussels-based lawyer Andrew Penhallow, where she asks to be dropped? Penhallow is constantly toing and froing from the Continent, but that night, unusually, he is at home, and - with his son away and his wife Carla in bed with a migraine - alone. Which is unfortunate, for the next morning he is found murdered in the garden. To the vicarious delight of the locals, who are quick to recall old disputes, Penhallow's death results in some spectacular revelations about his double life - developments which make the murder investigation all the more delicate for Superintendent Markby, who knew the dead man as a young body. Andrew Penhallow certainly had ghosts in his past - has one come back to claim him?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:05 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

When Brussels-based lawyer Andrew Penhallow is found murdered in his garden at Tudor lodge, superintendent Alan Markaby and his girlfriend investigate the ghosts of his past and the secrets of the present.

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