Murder by the Minster by Helen Cox: Mystery, romance and drama all perfectly brewed for book lovers - book review -

Murder by the Minster
Murder by the Minster

When Evie Bowes becomes prime suspect for the murder of her ex-boyfriend, her no-nonsense best friend Kitt Hartley, a university librarian, is determined to bring the real killer to book.

When Evie Bowes becomes prime suspect for the murder of her ex-boyfriend, her no-nonsense best friend Kitt Hartley, a university librarian, is determined to bring the real killer to book.

But being an avid reader of crime stories doesn’t mean that proving Evie’s innocence will be an open-and-shut case… in fact, it could take Kitt to some unexpectedly dark and dangerous corners of her home city of York.

Welcome to the first, entertaining book in the quirky Kitt Hartley Yorkshire Mysteries, set in the picturesque city of York and written by Yorkshire-born novelist and poet Helen Cox. Murder by the Minster introduces readers to librarian-turned-sleuth Kitt, the offbeat creation of romance novelist Cox who declares that her true passion lies in crime writing.

So expect gallows humour, a sense of cosy familiarity, a liberal sprinkling of literary references, a budding romance, and murders most foul as Cox brings her Yorkshire wit and wisdom to a stunning city rendered gorgeously Gothic.

Kitt Hartley is the librarian in the Women’s Studies section at the Vale of York University. Her trademarks are ultra-efficiency, her maroon trilby hat, and her love of Lady Grey tea… what she is definitely not known for is detective work.

All that changes when a perfectly normal day at her desk is turned upside down by the arrival of Detective Inspector Malcolm Halloran to tell her that her best friend, massage therapist Evie Bowes, is under suspicion of murder.

Evie’s ex-boyfriend Owen Hall, a vitamin salesman, has been found dead… poisoned, and then stabbed through the heart with a fountain pen. A note attached to the pen is incriminating and all evidence is now pointing to Evie.

But Kitt knows there is no way Evie could murder anyone, let alone Owen, whom she adored but who, admittedly, dumped her in a very cruel fashion. Horrified that the police could have got it so wrong, Kitt decides there is only one thing to do… she is going to investigate Owen’s murder herself.

She has read hundreds of mystery novels, so how hard can it be? With the help of her assistant-cum-psychology-student Grace Edwards, and the occasional hindrance of the library’s rather irregular regulars, Kitt summons up all her investigative powers and gets to work.

But, despite being distracted by the (not entirely unwelcome) amorous attentions of the handsome DI Halloran, Kitt soon discovers that down the quaint streets and snickelways of York lie darker deeds than she had ever dreamed of.

And she needs to watch her step because the murderer is watching her, and the callous perpetrator hasn’t finished killing yet...

Cox has fun with this tongue-in-cheek crime caper… think Midsomer Murders with a dash of Agatha Christie, heart-fluttering passion, and a feisty, feminist-flavoured layer of wry wit and literary laughs.

The trilby-topped, Lady Grey tea-imbibing Kitt looks set to be a force to be reckoned with on the streets of York as she cracks both crime and one-liners amongst her shelves of weighty tomes and eccentric Yorkshire bibliophiles.

Mystery, romance and drama all perfectly brewed for book lovers!

(Quercus, paperback, £8.99)