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by Stevyn Colgan
Random House UK, July 2018
320 pages
ISBN: 1783524383

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Every year, the picturesque village of Nasely in the county of South Herewardshire, England, hosts the Agnes Crabbbe Murder-Mystery Festival. Dozens of Agnes Crabbe fans descend on the village, and most arrive dressed as Crabbe's most famous character, a lady detective known to wear flapper dresses and long strands of pearls. Each year, tensions rise as rival fan clubs vie for attention, but this year, the tensions result in murder just as a long-held secret is about to be revealed. Before long, the police, a retired police officer, and swarms of look-alike fans are searching for a murderer-turned-kidnapper, and mayhem ensues.

If you're looking for a serious mystery with deeply developed characters, A MURDER TO DIE FOR is not for you. But if you want a fun romp that spoofs the Golden Age mysteries, never takes itself seriously, has multiple action-packed subplots going, and wraps things up nicely in the end, this novel by Stevyn Colgan may be just what your weekend needs.

Colgan sets things up nicely by working in the back story of Agnes Crabbe, a tragic war widow who wrote mysteries in the early 20th century and has legions of fans. He also introduces a large cast of characters, giving each a particular quirk or two to help the reader keep them all straight (there are lots of players in this story, each with his or her own agenda and/or storyline), and while all the characters may seem stereotypically familiar, that's part of the fun. By the end, the characters themselves are discussing in a rather meta-fiction way that the result didn't play out according to mystery-writing rules (true; the murderer is a rather convenient, coincidental surprise, and Colgan happily admits to setting out to break as many of the "Ten Commandments of Mystery Fiction" as possible—all in fun), several belief-stretching but exciting events have moved the action along quickly, and the murderer and motive have been revealed and thoroughly explained. All in all, there's a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor, gentle fun-poking at murder-mystery festival goers and bumbling policemen, red herrings galore, and even a bit of unexpected happily-ever-after love, all presented in a typical yet not so typical English village murder mystery.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, June 2018

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