Review of Mystery At Apple Tree Cottage by Clare Chase

Obituary writer and amateur sleuth Eve Mallow is enjoying life in sleepy Saxford St Peter – until a mysterious murder lands right at her door…

It’s spring in Saxford St Peter – time to get back in the garden, listen to the birds, and take gentle strolls in the woods. But for some, it’s the season for murder.

Eve Mallow is relishing the gentle pace of the village until a new arrival stirs everyone up. Ashton Foleyis back: a teenage tearaway turned interior designer to the stars. He’s mad, bad and dangerous to know, but charming too – as Eve herself can testify – and every house in Saxford opens its doors to him.

So when he’s found murdered in the woods near his mother’s home, Apple Tree Cottage, there’s no shortage of suspects. A jealous husband? A spurned lover? Or has someone from his past life caught up with him?

The police soon hit on a simple solution, and arrest his mother’s partner Howard. Ashton always hated him, and he bears all the marks of a recent fight. But Ashton’s mother, miles away in New Zealand, is convinced he’s innocent, and enlists Eve’s help to prove it.

There’s just one problem. Eve saw Howard sniffing around Apple Tree Cottage on the morning of the murder, and she’s fairly sure he’s guilty, too…

Available on Amazon and via Kindle Unlimited.

I happened across this series some time last month and decided to give it a try. Can’t really say what exactly piqued my interest, but I’m glad I checked it out.

The setting is delightful. Somehow the author manages to make Saxford St. Peter both charming and foreboding all at once. Perhaps it’s the mix of cheery Monty’s teashop and welcoming Cross Keys pub with the shadowy woods and the mystery surrounding Elizabeth’s Cottage. I ended up quite wanting to visit to take in the sights, sounds and tastes. I’ll happily pass on meeting busybody, Moira, at the village store, however.

The mystery is well-plotted and kept me guessing. Who killed Ashton? The story of who did it is closely linked to discovering exactly who Ashton was. Depending on who you speak to, you’ll get different impressions of the charismatic celebrity designer. His mother and closest friends see one side, his childhood mentor sees something else. His colleagues have their own tales to tell and his former teachers have other experiences as well. Uncovering the truth of his personality helps reveal possible motives for his murder. I loved the little twists that popped up here and there. With clues, red herrings and interesting village tidbits dropped at regular clip, I found the pacing of the story quite engaging and loved the big reveal.

There are several entertaining characters to keep the reader’s attention. Moira, the village storekeeper can be annoying but also funny. Eve’s best friend, Viv, is sweet and provides a good sounding board. Robin is the handsome, mysterious gardner who used to be a detective. His insights are invaluable. Then there’s our protagonist, Eve. Her profession as an obituary writer allows her to interview suspects under the guise of ‘researching’ her subject. She’s smart, curious and interested in her community. She can be a little judgmental at times but given her own experiences, perhaps it’s warranted.

Overall, I really enjoyed my first story in the Eve Mallow series. It was the second in the series, but I didn’t feel disconnected at all. I look forward to checking out a few more!

I give Mystery At Apple Tree Cottage 4/5 espresso shots.

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