With her personal life in disarray, Julia Lanchester feels she has no option but to quit her job on her father’s hit BBC Two nature show, A Bird in the Hand. Accepting a tourist management position in Smeaton-under-Lyme, a quaint village in the English countryside, Julia throws herself into her new life, delighting sightseers (and a local member of the gentry) with tales of ancient Romans and pillaging Vikings.
But the past is front and center when her father, Rupert, tracks her down in a moment of desperation. Julia refuses to hear him out; his quick remarriage after her mother’s death was one of the reasons Julia flew the coop. But later she gets a distressed call from her new stepmum: Rupert has gone missing. Julia decides to investigate—she owes him that much, at least—and her father’s new assistant, the infuriatingly dapper Michael Sedgwick, offers to help. Little does the unlikely pair realize that awaiting them is a tightly woven nest of lies and murder.
I, personally, was delighted to see a new series starting from author Marty Wingate. Having read the first two books in her "Potting Shed Mysteries", The Garden Plot, and The Red Book of Primrose House, I was expecting great things. And I am pleased to report that Ms. Wingate brings the same care and wonderful use of language, both description and dialogue, to The Rhyme of the Magpie.
Knowing even less about bird-watching than I do about gardening, I was wondering if the world of birds could provide enough fodder for a cozy mystery, but I needn't have worried. There can be a great deal of bragging rights for sighting a rare bird, or the greatest number of birds, etc., etc., and birders are every bit as competitive as the rest of us.
Ms. Wingate skillfully weaves in the other elements of her mystery along with giving us a worthy chunk of information about birds and the birding world. Julia left London, and her father's employ, in part due to the fact that he had married Julia's mother's best friend less than a year after her mother had died. My maternal uncle remarried after his wife had been gone for some time, and one of my cousins had a very difficult time dealing with that, so adjusting after such a short hiatus would be more difficult for Julia than I would care to remember.
And, of course, modern corporations and 'progress' are threatening to intrude on the idyllic countryside of old England and that cannot help but bring tension. There is apparently a bird in the neighborhood that could make the area a protected zone and prevent a businessman from developing the area as he envisions.
A body is found in the area of an outlying cottage that is in Julia's family. Her father goes missing. Her car goes missing. What in heaven's name is going on? Julia and her step-mother actually become uneasy allies in trying to find Rupert (Julia's father), so there is a form of resolution to that sticky family situation.
I also liked the tension between Julia and Michael, especially when she finds out that he is *ahem* hiding a secret. But then aren't we all.
Marty Wingate is winging (sorry, couldn't resist a little bird humor) her way into my list of favorite authors and I eagerly await the next installment of this series!
Marty Wingate is the author of The Garden Plot and The Red Book of Primrose House, and a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America. More Birds of a Feather mysteries are planned.
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Put Monday, August 3 on your calendar to return for a visit to the Back Porch as I will be hosting an interview with Marty Wingate and a review of her newest book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, (book 3 of the "Potting Shed Mysteries")!
(Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.)