Death of a Cozy Writer Paperback – Jul 8 2008
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"Wicked, witty and full of treats, G.M. Malliet's debut novel has the sure touch of a classy crime writer. More, please!" -- Peter Lovesey, recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Crime Writers' Association and Malice Domestic
Death of a Cozy Writer is a book anyone who cut their teeth on Agatha Christie's mysteries will treasure. I read it once for the story, and plan to read it a second time just to savor the language. It's that good. -- Cozy Library
Malliet's debut combines devices from Christie and Clue to keep you guessing until the dramatic denouement. -- Kirkus Reviews
From the Back Cover
"Death of a Cozy Writer, G.M. Malliet's hilarious first mystery, is a must-read for fans of Robert Barnard and P.G. Wodehouse. I'm looking forward eagerly to Inspector St. Just's next case!"
~~ Donna Andrews, award-winning author of The Penguin Who Knew Too Much
"The traditional British cozy is alive and well. Delicious. I was hooked from the first paragraph."
~~ Rhys Bowen, award-winning author of Her Royal Spyness
"Wicked, witty and full of treats, G.M. Malliet's debut novel has the sure touch of a classy crime writer. More, please!"
~~ Peter Lovesey, recipient of Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Crime Writers' Association and Malice Domestic
"Death of a Cozy Writer is a romp, a classic tale of family dysfunction in a moody and often humourous English country house setting. A worthy addition to the classic mystery tradition and the perfect companion to a cup of tea and a roaring fire, or a sunny deck chair. Relax and let G.M. Malliet introduce you to the redoubtable Detective Chief Inspector St. Just of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary. I'm sure we'll be hearing much more from him!"
~~ Louise Penny, author of the award-winning Armand Gamache series of murder mysteries
A house party in a Cambridgeshire mansion with the usual suspects, er, guests - a sly patriarch, grasping relatives, a butler, and a victim named Ruthven (what else?) - I haven't had so much fun since Anderson's "Affair of the Bloodstained Egg Cosy." Pass the tea and scones, break out the sherry, settle down in the library by the fire and enjoy Malliet's delightful tribute to the time-honored tradition of the English country house mystery.
~~ Marcia Talley, Agatha and Anthony award-winning author of DEAD MAN DANCING and six previous mysteries
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The plot of Death of a Cozy Writer revolves around a wealthy, aging aristocrat's will, a storyline harkening back to Kyd's Spanish Tragedy and Shakespeare's King Lear. Ms. Malliet's novel's central conceit is a British detective procedural that gently skewers the Cozy mystery sub-genre within an English country house setting. Familiar ground, brilliantly re-traversed. Moreover, Malliet manages to honor the sacred concord between mystery writer and reader by faithfully observing the requisite genre conventions, but in her own quirky, tongue-in-chic style.
The author uses the early chapters to depict the various characters with wit and unusual insight. She then deposits them at the nimbly executed meal en famille, a model of nuanced familial interaction and serial revelation. Once the estimable DCI St. Just and obligatory sidekick are introduced into the mix, the pace quickens and the reader is catapulted into a dizzying vortex of misdirection, surprise, and, echoing Greek tragedies, recognition and reversal. So sure, so authoritative is Malliet's grasp of character, plot, and convention as she propels the intricate plot to conclusion, I felt I had witnessed a display of narrative virtuosity equal to that of any first rate mystery writer's very best work.
Appetite whetted, I avidly await the gifted G.M. Malliet's next literary outing. Perhaps she will even include a "Death of an Amazon Reviewer" book in this promising series. Hmmm, I better hide the cutlery......
Then Sir Adrian drops the bombshell that his marriage is a done deal, that he and Violet are already man and wife and that his will has (yet again) been changed--but he doesn't say how. Shortly thereafter, Sir Adrian's eldest child Ruthven is brutally murdered, and it's not long before he follows his son to the afterlife. Just about everyone has motive to kill one or another of them, so who dunnit?
I admit that I was surprised by the ending, but to be honest, I didn't much care by that point. The book started very slowly, and I nearly gave it up since by the time I hit page 100 (1/3 of the way through the book) there had not yet been a murder, nor had we met DCI St. Just, our intrepid hero. There was just too much set-up, and in reflecting back, the set-up didn't really give many clues to the murderer. Once St. Just entered the scene, things did improve. I like him, and Sgt. Fear too, and wish that his character had been more developed. There is some wry humor that I found amusing, but the overall package of this book was just mediocre to me and it felt like it was "trying too hard." I will likely read the next one, but I've deleted it from my wishlist and just added it to my library list. If St. Just develops further in that book I would say the series has promise.
Cambridge Universities. DEATH OF A COPYWRITER is her first mystery and has already garnered the Malice Domestic Grant and the Romance Writers of America 2006 Stiletto Award in the thriller category.
Sir Adrian Beauclerk-Fisk is as phony as his title. He has also produced one of the truly great dysfunctional families. He is ensconced in his eighteenth-century Cambridgeshire manor, and has married a woman who was accused of murdering her first husband for his money. He delights in using Violet to torment his grown-up children, all of whom have their own foibles. The result naturally turns to murder, and it is up to Detective Chief Inspector St. Just and his sidekick, Detective Sergeant Fear, from the Cambridgeshire Constabulary to sort out the mess. The servants also have their own secrets to cover up, and the result is a jolly investigation marked by hilarious dialogue and commentary:
"The poor bugger really was dead, and he'd been dead awhile. St. Just thought it was little wonder the man who said he was his brother was in such sad shape. The body in the wine refrigerator or whatever it was called was a mess, the skull thoroughly crushed in. The face, itself, however, was intact: In profile, it retained the aristocratic, pampered visage of what the coroner would undoubtedly describe was a well-nourished, middle-aged man."
Malliet writes this little "cozy" with a sense of humor and an eye towards thoroughly confusing the reader. The connections made by St. Just are nothing short of Sherlock Holmes at his most coherent.
Malliet is not unaware of the perils of alcoholism to the family unit, and she uses this as a vehicle to produce the family secrets that would otherwise emerge as far-fetched. But in Ms. Malliet's able writing, it all makes a sordid type of sense. The result is a page-turner that is both entertaining and exhilarating. A most excellent first mystery!
The characters are fairly well drawn but none of them are likeable which makes the reader less interested from the beginning. The plot was very unbelievable in many, many places and the ending was like a giant plop that ended up on the last pages, with no real way for the reader to anticipate it. I won't be searching out more by this author since it was like I was working as I was reading on waiting for something to be interesting.
Usually a cozy will also have humor but that was another aspect I did not find, even dry humor. This is more of a dark cozy I guess. That is not at all what I was expecting.
Death of a Cozy Writer is the first in a new series featuring Detective Chief Inspector St. Just of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Sergeant Fear. The crime-fighting pair are not introduced, however, until we are some one hundred pages into the book, after a crime has been committed. And when St. Just and Fear do appear we are not told that much about them. Some details emerge: Fear has a daughter; St. Just has a cat aptly named Deerstalker. But while the other characters in the book are described in great detail--the malevolent Sir Adrian and his scheming brood, the help at Waverly Court--the detectives themselves are not fleshed out. This seems odd, as it is St. Just and his right-hand man who will have to anchor the series as its recurring characters, long after the Beauclerk-Fisks have been left on their own to run through their inheritances. It is interesting that the author has elected to breathe life into characters who will (presumably) be replaced in subsequent outings rather than beefing up her portrayal of St. Just.
Malliet's writing is lovely:
"Natasha admired the woman's self-possession. It was an excellent impersonation of aristocracy putting the revolting masses back in their place. Natasha, who had done her own research, found the act nearly pitch-perfect--for an act it was, she was certain. She wouldn't have put it past Lillian to have arrived at breakfast dressed in jodhpurs, cracking a whip against her highly polished boots, despite the absence of a stables for forty miles or more. Instead, Lillian had opted for the simple wool sheath bedecked with a king's ransom in pearls at neck and wrist: the uniform of the bored society matron. But not, Natasha recognized, quite the done thing for breakfast in a country manor house."
And the mystery certainly kept me guessing until all was revealed in the requisite drawing room scene at the book's end. (I am left confused about one issue I should have liked tied up, though, having to do with the identity of Sir Adrian's secretary.) All in all a delightful read. I look forward to more in the St. Just series.
-- Debra Hamel