Title: Murder on Monday
Author: Ann Purser
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime [originally published 2002, this edition 2003]
This is the first in a series of cosy mysteries featuring a cleaner, Lois Meade, who works for a number of families in a small village in England. When a woman is cruelly murdered Lois, who has already shown an interest in volunteering for community police work, is well placed to find out information from her clients and pass it on to the police.
I do like it when books give a sense of place and the social structure and behaviour of the players in this story meant it dripped English-ness. Imagine one of those villages in Midsomer where the dozens of murders that happen all seem to be done in a more civilised way than would happen anywhere else. Although of course there’s lots of hidden emotions and dark passions lurking just under the surface.
I liked, but didn’t love, the characters. Lois is a wife and mother of three children as well as being a cleaner and amateur detective and is a solid lead character but a bit grim for me to be totally engaged by her. For most of the book I thought there was something not quite right about her and towards the end I realised it was her complete lack of friends. She has her immediate family and her clients but that’s it. As well as being odd I thought this probably created a few plot problems for the author because Lois didn’t really have anyone she talked things through with so there was a lot of thinking out loud and writing in notebooks which was a bit unsatisfactory after a while. However there are a few characters, including a couple of members of the Police force, who have the potential to become more substantial players in future books.
The plot was well constructed and sensibly resolved although it seemed to take an awfully long time. The book takes place over many months and for the first few it seemed as if the Police did nothing but wait for Lois to find out something during her daily cleaning rounds. The point of allowing this much time to elapse was, I assume, to allow other parts of the story to unfold but it gave the investigation itself an air of unbelievability. This was at odds with the rest of the story elements, including Lois’ family dramas and day-to-day life in the village, which were all quite realistic.
It would need a dash or three of humour for me to be thoroughly enchanted by the book but it was certainly entertaining and I liked its authenticity. I’ll look for the next in the series on another occasion when I need to take a break from the darker stuff that occupies most of my reading hours.
My rating 3/5
According to Fantastic Fiction there are 8 more Lois Meade mysteries so far (after the days of the week Purser wisely moves on to numbers which won’t run out)