Bones in the Belfry by Suzette A Hill

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Bones in the Belfry by Suzette A Hill

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Melony Sanders
Reviewed by Melony Sanders
Summary: The Reverend Francis Oughterard has been asked to conceal two paintings for a friend. Unfortunately, these paintings are stolen masterpieces and the police are anxious to have them back. Will the Reverend hand them over? Or will he lose his job over the fiasco?
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Constable
ISBN: 978-1845295820

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When the Reverend Francis Oughterard is asked to conceal two paintings for an acquaintance he owes a favour, he is not expecting to be doing anything illegal. Then he discovers that the paintings are actually stolen masterpieces, pictures of which are all over the papers. If he hands them over to the police, his acquaintance will spill the beans about a murder the Reverend was involved in. If he doesn't, how will he live with his conscience? And either way, how will his cat and dog, the redoutable Maurice and dopey Bouncer cope with the fall-out?

When I first started this book, I had every expectation that this book would be a murder mystery. And the first few chapters caused me to continue in this belief - it was soon obvious that the Reverend had previously been involved in a murder case - in fact, he was the murderer. However, murder is not the topic in this book - the crime is the stealing of the paintings and the story is about the concealment of these paintings. As such, I was rather disappointed. There is no particular reason I should have presumed that it was going to be a murder mystery, but it did seem like that sort of book, so am mentioning this up-front to hopefully prevent any other readers from being disappointed.

That aside, the plot starts off quite successfully. There is a lot going on to occupy the reader. I was, however, expecting something major to happen at some point - there was certainly a feeling of the build-up of suspense - and when nothing of note did happen, I began to feel my interest wane. It didn't need to be a murder, just something to make me sit up and take note. I didn't, at any point, consider giving the book up, but nor was I page-turning, unable to wait until I found out what was going to happen next. When I reached the end, I thought that the story rather petered out, and although it paves the way for another book, I wasn't tempted to look out for it.

The book is well-written. It is clear that the author, who is an English teacher, has a wide range of vocabulary, because she uses liberally, although is never over-the-top. Most of the choice words are saved for the memoirs of Maurice, the cat, who is a rather wordy character and likes to show off his intelligence. I am, however, unconvinced of the way that the story is told. It is amusing at first to know what the cat and dog think of their master's way of dealing with things - I love animals and have read books before that involve animals in investigations - but after a while, I found it irritating and a little too contrived, not to say repetitive.

The other thing that bugged me as I read the book was the Reverend and his haplessness. He is completely irreverent, for which I could forgive him, not being the most religious person there is, and I think that most people would feel the same way. However, we find out early on in the book that he is actually a murderer, but has managed to hide this knowledge from the police and so is continuing as normal. I know that this is supposed to be amusing, but I felt it made for uncomfortable reading and I'm sure that some would find it offensive. It certainly hasn't encouraged me to read the first book, in which the murder and cover-up apparently take place.

I didn't violently dislike this book. It just didn't excite me all that much either and I rather sighed a sigh of relief when I finished it. I think that it will appeal to some fans of crime fiction, particularly those who like humour and the involvement of animals mixed in with their mystery, but anyone expecting a grittier read would do well to stay away. Three stars out of five.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

For other books that combine crime fiction with humour, try the Agatha Raisin series by M C Beaton, the Fethering Mysteries, a series written by Simon Brett, and anything by Alexander McCall Smith.

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Buy Bones in the Belfry by Suzette A Hill at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Bones in the Belfry by Suzette A Hill at


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