True Love Ways (by Sally Quilford)

I've had an online acquaintanceship with Sally Quilford for over two years now, and have enjoyed reading her blog and magazine columns. Living abroad, I'm unable to get hold of her recently published pocket novels, but in January downloaded one of them ('The Secret of Helena's Bay') for my Kindle, and enjoyed it very much. Sally deliberately prices her Kindle editions very reasonably, and I decided to look out for some more.

So last month, I bought 'True Love Ways', which is subtitled 'Midchester Memories', also for my Kindle. I wasn't sure quite what to expect, since I knew it was crime fiction and that's not really my preferred genre. However I've enjoyed Agatha Christie's novels and other similar lightweight mysteries, so thought - as the price was so good - I'd try it.

It wasn't long before I was immersed in the story, which is set in the middle of the 20th century. Meredith, the young heroine, has been brought up by a loving aunt, but has always rather hankered to live with her more eccentric aunt Peg, who makes a hobby of solving real life murder mysteries, somewhat in the style of Miss Marple. The story starts when Meredith is a young adult. Aunt Peg breaks her foot, and Meredith goes to look after her. High drama happens in a train carriage on the way there, where she meets an elderly housekeeper, a vicar and his wife, another young vicar (who is rather attractive), three teenagers, and an elderly war veteran.

These people all start chatting... then, before Meredith arrives at her destination, we learn that a terrible crime has taken place.

It's not a long book, and I read it in just a couple of days. The plot is a bit complicated: the war veteran mentions several unsolved mysteries from the past, which I never did quite straighten out in my mind. If I'd been reading a paper version, I might well have gone back to re-read the first chapter when I discovered the relevance of the various conversations on the train, but that's more difficult to do with a Kindle.

However, I found the characters to be distinct and believable, and that's what matters. Despite the brevity of the novel, I could picture them all in my mind. Unsurprisingly, given the title of the book, there's a strong romantic theme which runs alongside the investigation of the crime, which (to me) was a bonus.

With the historical setting and the genre, I was reminded more than once of Georgette Heyer's crime mysteries, which I like rather more than Agatha Christie's. My taste, on the whole, is for character-driven romantic novels rather than crime fiction, but I enjoyed the blend of genres very much and look forward to reading more by Sally Quilford in future.


Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 6th May 2011

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