The Queen of Poisons sounded like a good read, so I requested an ARC from Netgalley and the publishers. Besides, it gives me a Q for my Alphabet Soup Challenge for 2024. If only there were more U, V, X, Y and Z s!
The Queen of Poisons (Marlow Mystery Club #3)
by Robert Thorogood
Geoffrey Lushington, Mayor of Marlow, dies suddenly during a Town Council meeting. When traces of aconite – also known as the queen of poisons – are found in his coffee cup, the police realise he was murdered. But who did it? And why?
The police bring Judith, Suzie and Becks in to investigate as Civilian Advisors right from the start*, so they have free rein to interview suspects** and follow the evidence to their heart’s content, which is perfect because Judith has no time for rules and standard procedure. But this case has the Marlow Murder Club stumped. Who would want to kill the affable Mayor of Marlow? How did they even get the poison into his coffee? And is anyone else in danger? The Marlow Murder Club are about to face their most difficult case yet . . .
There’s no trouble jumping in at No 3 as your first foray into the Marlow Murder Club, as there’s nothing relating to previous cases involved. The women seem intent on trampling all over any evidence, and interview people off the cuff, which I’m sure will make the evidence inadmissible, but it’s all in good fun. Just a warning in case you like your cosies a little more police procedural.
My first impression, having read Mr Thorogood’s bio in which he says he’s been mad about Miss Marple stories since he was ten, was that he had been impressed too much, as the first couple of chapters read terribly old fashioned. This wears off, fortunately, into quite a jolly caper.
There’s an awful lot of things I think a good editor should have picked up, some in phrasing and some in factual detail, but am I too fussy? I mean… what is an undeveloped field? It’s either a field or it’s been developed (or in process) and is no longer a field. Obviously nobody bothered to check the planning process and local powers, or bat surveys, and what to do if a rare one was found. Also, checking the habitat used by the named rare one might have been good. Although, I suppose it would have ruined several strands of the author’s story.
It was convoluted, to say the least. So many suspects, so many ways to suspect them. So little proof until they’d scrabbled around and conveniently found things. It was all so contrived. Two of the women are very badly characterised and I could not tell who was who when they were speaking, or remember which was which when they were named. And as for the tropes Mr Thorogood reaches into for his motivations… I can’t imagine why half his readership haven’t burnt his books by now.
My messages for Mr Thorogood are: remember ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’. I think that’s around 100 years old now, but it’s as relevant as ever. And check your facts better.
*The police don’t bring them in, they bring themselves in and railroad themselves onto the police team.
**they are told they are not to interview suspects.