Mystery author #30 Veronica Stallwood

Title: Oxford Shadows
Series detective: Kate Ivory
No. in series: 8
Year of publication: 2000
Type of mystery: Murder, partly-historical, cosy
Type of investigator: Amateur (romance writer)
Setting & time: Oxford, England

Story: Suffering from writer's block and depression following a deadly attack (presumably in a previous book in the series), romance writer Kate Ivory is being hounded by her agent to begin work on a new, preferably spicy, novel. When workmen who are fixing the floors in her boyfriend's apartment find a box of papers and other items dating back to World War 2 under the floorboards and Kate comes across the owner's name on a tombstone shortly afterwards, she becomes interested in researching the war years for a novel. Before long she is digging after more information about the owner of the box, a young boy names Chris who was billeted in the house during the last months of the war along with his sister. The house had then belonged to an aunt of Kate's boyfriend, who is reluctant to have her dig up the past in case some family skeletons should be revealed.

Review: This is a comfortable cosy mystery, while also describing the recovery of someone who has lived through serious trauma and is slowly getting over it. It does, in fact, describe what people suffering from minor depression know to be an effective remedy against the blues, namely taking up a new interest. Of course, this being a series novel about an amateur sleuth, the new hobby is not shell collecting or skydiving, but the investigation of a death that at first merely seems to be merely interesting from a historical point of view, but then appears to be a possible case of foul play.

The writing flows smoothly and while this is not a page-turner, it is an interesting story and even the knowledge of the boy's fate and the quiet despair of Kate's struggles with depression do not suffice to make it any less comfortable to read. This is probably due to the author's ability to disperse any possible gloom with comic relief and strange, funny characters.

I will definitely be reading more of Stallwood's books.

Rating: 3+ stars.


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