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A Spoonful of Murder by J M Hall - Review

Friday, May 19, 2023

I can't remember where I heard about this book but I was told it was for fans of Richard Osman and I liked the sound of it, so when I had an Amazon voucher I bought it. I'm glad I didn't spend my own money on it because it ended up being quite a disappointment. I lent it to my mum and I'll be interested to see what she thinks. 

So firstly the story, then I'll get into the problems with it. Three friends, all retired teachers, meet every Thursday at the local garden centre for coffee. They are Pat, married to a builder and with a seventeen year old son still at home. She is obsessed with her weight which is one of my problems as it's really dull to read about a woman worrying about eating a scone. Then there's Thelma, married to a man who may be a vicar or something, but honestly that bit was very confusing. She did something terrible while grieving when a young woman, but it's not clear what but it has shaped the type of person she was. Finally there's Liz, married to Derek and grandma to Jacob, who is having problems at school and who read to me as autistic but no one mentioned that word throughout the whole book so who knows. 

They are at the garden centre one Thursday when another ex colleague of theirs, Topsy, turns up with her daughter, KellyAnne. It becomes clear that Topsy is suffering from dementia and is a bit confused, but remembers her old friends. They talk to her a bit, feeling a bit guilty that they haven't seen her in so long, and then in the toilets she says something to Thelma about someone wanting her dead. Thelma thinks it's just a confused old lady saying things, so doesn't say anything.

Liz goes to visit Topsy the following Monday, and finds KellyAnne there, and an estate agent who is her friend, who's called Ness. There's a young man trying to deal with mending the telephone, and there's the cleaner, Paula, who Liz and co also used to work with so they know her well. Topsy gets confused with her tablets and there's also the mystery of the man outside in the rusty black van... And then a few days later Topsy is dead. The police seem inclined to believe it was just an accident, especially as KellyAnne was in Portugal at the time, but Liz, Pat, and Thelma aren't convinced, especially with what Topsy told Thelma. They start to investigate and discover that Topsy was defrauded out of all her life savings... but is that relevant to her death? 

So I did like the mystery, but there are too many red herrings. There's entirely too many characters in the book, and a lot of similar names which makes it hard to keep people straight in your head. I feel like at least one strand could have been cut and the book would have been just as good if not better. I didn't feel like the endings all really paid off, either, and I was just entirely baffled by what happened with the young man who was trying to mend the telephone line. 

The book also needed a better edit. There are several mistakes which I feel a good editor should have copied - for example, KellyAnne says a couple of times that she was "three thousand" miles away in the Algarve. The Algarve is not three thousand miles away. She also says she was in Santorini, which is in Greece (and which is still not three thousand miles away!). There's a few mistakes like this. There's also some linguistic tics that should have been sorted - for instance three different characters use the phrase 'bar-steward' in place of 'bastard' which is fien but I don't believe three different people would say this. The book feels a bit like it's been self published, if you know what I mean. 

I'm giving it three out of five and unfortunately I don't think I'll read anything else by the same author. 

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