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by Hazel Holt
Allison and Busby, June 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0749083646

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Getting an appointment to see a doctor in Taviscombe is something of an ordeal in itself, so for Sheila Malory to find herself and all the other patients turfed out of the waiting room and all appointments cancelled for the rest of the day because of an accident is very annoying. As they talk about it outside the surgery, the police arrive and it is obvious this accident must be very serious.

Grabbing lunch in the village, Sheila meets one of the receptionists and learns that there has in fact been a murder. Dr Morrison, a recent addition to the small practice, has been stabbed to death in his office. Dr Morrison, a divorcee with dark good looks, was a brilliant man undertaking cutting edge research into genetics, but he seemed remote, lacked a good bedside manner and had few fans. A motive for his murder however doesn't seem obvious.

The police, with whom Mrs Malory is presumably well acquainted from previous novels, ask her to keep her ears open for gossip whilst they handle the facts. This task is made relatively easy for her by the discovery that an old school friend, Nora Burton, lived near Dr Morrison and knew him very well. As Nora gradually reveals more facts about his life, the list of suspects for his murder changes repeatedly.

NO CURE FOR DEATH is the 16th book in the Sheila Malory series by Hazel Holt set in Taviscombe, Devon, and it's not the place to start. As a first time reader to the series I was overwhelmed by all the characters peopling the first quarter of the book. To long-time readers, however, no doubt it would be great to be straight into the action and to spot all the old familiar faces.

The action, though, does take a while to start. The first 50 pages of this short novel are mostly taken up with the characters' opinions on the current shortcomings of the UK National Health Service, which I found to be so accurate that I was busy nodding in agreement. It is testament to the author's quality of writing, particularly the accuracy of her dialogue, that this held the attention for so long, but by the end of it I was certainly getting desperate for a murder.

The investigation of the murder is gently handled, mostly through conversations, and was certainly interesting as more flesh was put on the characters, but the resolution was a little too surprising. Whilst I had identified the killer as a likely candidate some time earlier, the motive came out of left field.

Hazel Holt has been compared to Agatha Christie as one of a small number of writers now producing traditional village mysteries, and I can see the similarity although certainly this is much more a snapshot of current times. It is an easy read thanks largely to the excellent use of dialogue, but I would recommend anyone new to the series to start with an earlier book and work towards this one, as I suspect that would be more satisfying.

Reviewed by Bridget Bolton, July 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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