Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Cozy Knave: A Gershwin and Penrose Mystery, by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

Occasional readers of this blog couldn't be blamed for assuming that when it comes to mysteries, my preferences lie towards the darker end of the spectrum, populated by tough guys and gals who'll stop at nothing to get to the bottom of a  crime or, uh, commit one. But I actually got into reading mysteries through the likes of Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham, and later practitioners like Simon Brett and Dorothy Simpson. In fact one of the blogs I have on my blog roll is Miss Lemon's Mysteries, hosted in a behind the scenes kind of capacity by Elizabeth Frengel, but presided over, surely, by the spirit of Miss Felicity Lemon, Poirot's right hand gal.

All this to say that it's certainly no leap for me to read Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen's The Cozy Knave, which wears the mantle of the British village cozy proudly. The fact that the author is Danish will not cause bafflement to anyone who reads her djskrimiblog , as Jakobsen is a regular reader of British crime fiction, cozy and not so much so. Suffice to say, Ms. Jakobsen knows her stuff.

The story opens with the return of a prodigal son of sorts to the village of Knavesborough. He has set himself up in a newly acquired stately home, bringing his butler along in tow. The residents of Knavesborough, particularly those of the feminine variety, are of course quite curious about this turn of events, and when the village is invited to a housewarming party at Netherdale Manor, who are they to say no?

Needless to say, there will be a murder or two in the course of the tale, old  history will be  unearthed and newer secrets revealed. With a large cast of characters, many of them far from cleared of suspicion, it takes a good guide to lead us through the labyrinth. Constable Archibald Penrose, with little help from the powers that be, but a lot of help from his fiancee, Rhapsody Gershwin, is such a guide, and 'what we know so far' gets summarized in an unobtrusive way between he and Rhapsody at several points in the book. An old-fashioned 'cast of characters' list at the front of the book might be helpful in such a populated work, although to her credit, Ms. Jakobsen uses very memorable names to help sort that out a little. ( You'll see.)

It would be unfair of me to go further into the plot, as in this type of book, plot is everything in a way that it isn't in many other literary forms. If you like the Midsomer Murders television series, based on the mysteries of Caroline Graham (and which the The Cozy Knave  actually mentions),  you are a fair way toward enjoying this book already. You can buy it in a variety of formats from Smashwords--the link is in the title above.

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