Mistletoe Mystery (by Sally Quilford)

I finished the book I was reading on my Kindle within the first few minutes of a flight home after a lengthy trip away. I wanted something fairly lightweight that I hoped to finish in two or three hours, as I prefer to read print editions of books when I’m not travelling. Scrolling through my unread fiction, I saw that I still have several novels by Sally Quilford, whose work makes ideal reading for flights.

‘Mistletoe Mystery’ is part of the Midchester series, but as far as I can tell each book is complete in itself, the only links being the town in which the story takes place. And in this one, almost all the action takes place in a large mansion, owned by a young woman called Philly. It was left to her by her godmother, who was insistent that she keep it rather than sell it, but this is proving rather difficult.

Philly is a small-time actress, and has some good friends. We meet her apparently planning to poison somebody… but it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t in fact a crime, but her latest attempt to earn some money. It’s not particularly successful, and she’s almost in despair when she discovers some paintings in the attic and wonders if any of them are worth anything significant.

So she travels to see an art expert, and bumps into a rather gorgeous young man called Matt. He seems to know something about art, and shows considerable interest in Philly, rather to her surprise. She is even more surprised when he gets in touch with her afterwards, and comes to visit her.

However something isn’t quite right about Matt, and Philly feels edgy. Meanwhile she’s been finding out about her house, which used to be a school. She learns about a young French girl who went missing, and whose ghost is said to haunt the building. She also gets to know a few locals, some of whom have connections with her house. And then there’s the puzzle of where the paintings in the attic have come from, and whether they’re genuine..

I found some of the threads of the story a bit confusing. This isn't clear crime fiction of the Agatha Christie style, with logical investigations and deductions. Instead it's a character-based novel where there is more than one mystery ongoing. I don't think I could have guessed the outcomes, but that didn't matter at all.

I thought it well-written with an excellent pace that made me want to keep reading. As ever, Sally Quilford created believable and well-rounded characters. I could empathise with Philly’s uncertainty regarding Matt; I also felt her frustration as she tried to make ends meet, feeling the house a burden at times, but wanting to honour her godmother’s last request.

About half an hour before my flight landed, I was just over half-way through the book when my Kindle froze. I re-set it the following day, but when I tried to read the rest of the book, the Kindle froze again at exactly the same place.

Evidently there was some problem with the downloaded file - which was a relief, as it meant the Kindle itself wasn’t faulty! - so as I was eager to find out what happened, I read the rest in the Kindle app on my computer. I don’t like reading fiction on my computer screen, so it’s a testament to the writing and the plot that I didn’t feel I could abandon the book half-way through. I read all the rest in one sitting.

The book was originally published as a pocket novel; it’s free of bad language or anything explicit, and has a satisfying and positive ending.

Definitely recommended. As far as I know, 'Mistletoe Mystery' is only currently available in Kindle form.

Review copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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