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by Maureen Sarsfield
Rue Morgue Press, July 2003
191 pages
ISBN: 0915230550

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Murder at Shots Hall is a reprint of a book originally published in 1945. Flikka Ashley and her aunt, Bee Chattock, live in the portion of Shots Hall that survived German bombs. Flik is a sculptor and goes to her studio to work in the evenings. She always checks in with the housekeeper, Molly Pritchard, as she goes to the studio. One night on her way home she notices Molly's light still on, goes in and finds Molly dead. She's seen plenty of bodies before, having been an ambulance driver during the Blitz. Immediately she suspects murder and calls the police. First to deal with the case is the unpleasant Detective Sargent Arnoldson, who suspects Flikka almost immediately. Fortunately Deputy Chief Constable Mahew asks Inspector Luke Parry of Scotland Yard to take over the case.

In this small village, people are used to their routines. Murder throws them hopelessly off. They are even more unsettled when Old Marsh, who owns the pub, is murdered with the same arsenic used to poison Molly. Suspicion against Flik grows stronger.

Almost nothing is known about author Maureen Sarsfield other than that she published three novels in post-war England. It is a shame she didn't publish more, as she had a deft feel for characters and setting. Flick and her aunt Bee are both strong, independent women. The town doctor, Dr. Abbot, gets involved and falls for Flick, and is a well-drawn character. Sargeant Congreve is an observant policeman who will spins tall tales to make people feel better.

As for setting, the reader imbibes a strong feel for the village. It is an excellent snapshot of rural life in England at the end of World War II. The plot is well done. All in all an excellent read, highly recommended.

Reviewed by Mary A. Axford, July 2003

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