Intrigue in the Village (by Rebecca Shaw)

I'm not quite sure what it is about Rebecca Shaw's books that makes them rather compulsive. I have several of her Turnham Malpas series, about a small village in England; I don't rank them as my favourites... and yet if I happen to see one I haven't yet read, at a good price in a charity shop, I tend to buy it.

I was fortunate to spot two of these books on a relative's shelves recently, neither of which I had read. I asked if I could borrow them, and was told to take them... they're not the kind of books to read frequently, but useful to while away a few hours on holiday or in an idle moment.

So first I read 'Intrigue in the Village'. This book, 11th in the Turnham Malpas series begins with the wedding of two slightly unlikely characters, both of whom I recalled from previous novels in the series. I don't recall at all whether there was a hint of romance between them in an earlier book, but it didn't matter; it's not necessary to have read any of the others as each is complete in itself.

The book is then mainly about this couple as they adjust to each other; one is a wealthy but somewhat ruthless landlord; the other much more inclined to philanthropy. There's also a rather odd thread involving someone holding seances in her home, inviting various people and - apparently - communicating with spirits. And there are plenty of general soap-style episodes: people being fired from jobs, a new and impoverished family arriving; suspicions of infidelity, accidents, and more.

There's a chart of characters in the front of each of these books which is sometimes useful when I forget who is whom; unfortunately they don't necessary explain who all the people are in the book, and have some listed who don't appear at all. There's also a diagram of a map of the fictional village of Turnham Malpas.

The writing style is casual, the characters not very well developed.... and yet there's something about these books that continues to make them compulsive reading.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 14th April 2010

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