Fear in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope
|Fear in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: Death in the snowy Cotswolds leaves Thea Osborne wondering if she imagined a body. A good plot with oodles of atmosphere makes this a real page-turner.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: November 2009|
|Publisher: Allison & Busby|
Thea Osborne is a house sitter by profession. When people go away she moves into their homes and looks after their animals and the property. This time it's winter and she's spending a month in the Cotswold village of Hampnett. It wouldn't be a job for all of us but Thea delights in getting to know the local people and the area. In the past she's also been involved with the police in solving various cases but it looks as though that might have come to an end as the relationship she had with DS Phil Hollis has crumbled. For the first time Thea feels like an outsider – and a foolish one - when she finds footsteps in the snow which lead to a body in a nearby field. When the police finally arrive the body has disappeared and the police obviously wonder if she's imagined it all.
I enjoy police procedurals but I'm not normally a fan of the 'private individual who shows the police where they're going wrong' genre, so I opened Fear in the Cotswolds with more than a little trepidation. Was I going to sit there constantly muttering 'Oh, for heavens sake – the police would never allow…'? I needn't have worried. Two factors lifted the book above the norm.
The first is Thea. I loved her. Widowed when he beloved husband was killed and left with only her spaniel now that her daughter has joined the police force, she managed to carve out an independent life for herself. She thinks of herself as fearless (until some things prove just a little too much for her) but never takes silly risks. There's a warmth about her, an empathy with animals and you find yourself wanting life to work out for her.
The second point is that Rebecca Tope has a remarkable ability to create atmosphere in a few words. I looked up from immersing myself in the rigours of a snow storm in the Cotswolds with a real sense of shock when I realised that it was a sunny autumn day outside and when Thea experiences fear in a way which she's never felt it before I actually put the book down and checked that our dogs were alright.
It's just about a 'closed room' mystery as one man dies (Thea actually manages to discover his body a second time) and a young mother is murdered and given the fact that Hampnett is very small (calling it a 'hamlet' rather overstates the case) there was a relatively small cast list from which to choose the murderer. Tope manages well and I certainly hadn't guessed the perpetrator much before the end.
It's a good read and I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more about real life in a tightly-knit community in the Cotswolds we can recommend A Place In My Country: In Search Of A Rural Dream by Ian Walthew. Fans of Miss Read will also enjoy her first stories for ten years in Christmas at Thrush Green.
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