The Body in Belair Park
by Alice Castle
Beth Haldane is on the verge of having everything she’s ever wanted. Her son is starting secondary school, her personal life seems to have settled down – even her pets are getting on. But then the phone rings.
It’s Beth’s high maintenance mother, Wendy, with terrible news. Her bridge partner, Alfie Pole, has died suddenly. While Beth, and most of Dulwich, is convinced that Alfie has pegged out from exhaustion, thanks to playing with Wendy for years, Beth’s mother is certain that there is foul play afoot.
Before she knows it, Beth is plunged into her most complicated mystery yet, involving the Dulwich Bridge Club, allotment holders, the Dulwich Open Garden set and, of course, her long-suffering boyfriend, Metropolitan Police Detective Inspector Harry York. The case stirs up old wounds which are much closer to home than Beth would like. Can she come up trumps in time to stop the culprit striking again – or does the murderer hold the winning hand this time?
Purchase Link: http://mybook.to/BodyinBelair
Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.
Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim and also hit the number one spot. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, was published in August 2018, with Homicide in Herne Hill following in October 2018. Revenge on the Rye came out in December 2018. The Body in Belair Park will be published on 25th June 2019. Alice is currently working on the seventh London Murder Mystery adventure, The Slayings in Sydenham. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.
Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com
Death in Dulwich is now also out as an audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/B07N1VNMLT/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-140657&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_140657_rh_us
Alice lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children and two cats.
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I could read this author’s books forever – her observational wit and perfect descriptions of people and situations are second to none.
Welcome to Dulwich society – where yummy mummies battle for dominance at the school gates with coffee morning invites at the ready while the more senior residents cross swords over allotment entitlements and Bridge Club etiquette (fortunately, “helmet” hairdos are not obligatory)
This is a cosy mystery, very much in the style of Murder She Wrote with its small community setting and everybody knowing everyone’s business. However, added to the mix of authentic setting, eccentric characters and a murder-mystery, is the author’s unique observational wit and satirical asides.
This is not a grand drama or gory massacre, but rather a very satisfying mystery where members of the Bridge Club are being poisoned. Eighty-year-old Alfie Pole – victim no.1 – is found stiff as a board on a bench in the gardens of Belair House. Most people, including our sleuth, Beth Haldane, think he’s had a heart attack or something typical of a man of his years, but Beth’s mum, Wendy thinks differently. Alfie was her bridge partner, and had never left her in the lurch during a club meeting before. So, what had tempted Alfie into the gardens where he met his untimely end?
Beth’s mind is already preoccupied: Her son, Ben, has just started at a new school, but he’s not very chatty and seems to be just getting on with things, including his homework – which worries Beth. Her boyfriend, Harry, the detective is, of course, not disclosing any facts the police case has found – which also worries Beth. Her mum’s obsession with the case, and her ideas to help find the killer – also worries Beth, and then there’s her new job in the archives dept at Ben’s school, and the fact she hasn’t been turning up for work much – which is also a worry for Beth. So, the last thing she needs, despite her sleuthing reputation, is another mystery to solve. Her mum has other ideas, and very quickly Beth sees that maybe Wendy is onto something, but not before there’s another death.
There are a lot of bridge rules mentioned, all of which are over my head, but, thankfully the author spices up these scenes with wonderful observations of the players, told through Beth’s thoughts as she comes across one eccentric character after another.
“She had what could only be described as a helmet of hair … as sugar-spun as Donald Trump’s”
“his thick black hair was slicked down with enough gel to keep a boy band going for weeks”
“with white hair collected into two tufts over his ears, like a cartoon professor”
With such imagery, it’s impossible not to get drawn into this world.
The story is rich in characters, outside of the mystery, which really builds the idea of a community. Even so, it seems Dulwich has more than its fair share of oddballs and eccentrics: the garden-crazed neighbour and her fear of Japanese Knockweed in Wendy’s garden; Alfie’s daughter and the Jane Austen film crew in his garden of plastic flowers, and Belinda, the school tyrant mum who leaves Beth out of her coffee morning get-togethers (probably the only thing that Beth is not worried about)
Beth’s antics and attempts to solve the mystery are frequently hilarious, notwithstanding the serious side to the investigation that endangers her and others. All of which, in true cosy style, is nicely tied up at the end, although you’d never think it possible. This is an easy-going, funny read, a lovely world to lose yourself in for a few hours.
As I’ve not read every book of the series, I’ve remedied that and picked up the books missing from my reading list – yep, it’s that good, and I really wish I’d been reading from the start. But hey, it’s never too late to catch up 😉
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