Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Murder at the Old Vicarage: Jill McGown

Inspector Lloyd has finished reading a novel in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve, and is thinking about spending his Christmas with friends, when he would rather be spending it with Detective Sergeant Judy Hill. Judy, however, is married and will be spending Christmas with her husband and in-laws. It is snowing and they will have a white Christmas. Within the next twenty four hours, there is a murder at the vicarage in Byford, and Lloyd and Judy Hill  are called in to work on the case together.

The victim is the vicar's son-in-law, Graham Elstow; his wife, Joanna, has moved back in with her parents because he has beaten her, and the last time she ended up in the hospital.  Graham and Joanna have met at the vicarage to talk; he is drunk and they fight. Later, he is found in his wife's bedroom, beaten with a poker from the fireplace. Although all of the residents of the vicarage claim to have been out when the murder occurred, the police assume one of them must have murdered Graham.

This book is part of one of my favorite series, the Lloyd and Hill books written by Jill McGown. Each book is different, they are not written to a formula. The relationship of Lloyd and Judy Hill continues throughout the series. I often have an aversion to mystery novels with romances, but in this case I find the relationship between Inspector Lloyd and Detective Sergeant Judy Hill to be an enjoyable addition. It is plausible; they seem like very real people with real problems.

As far as the solution to the mystery, I was fooled even on the second read. I thought I had the villain figured out, and even thought it might be that I was remembering it from the first read. But no, I was totally wrong.

The novel is a homage to Agatha Christie. Of course the title is very similar to one of Christie's novels: The Murder at the Vicarage. Inspector Lloyd is an avid reader of mysteries, a fan of Agatha Christie, and he points out the similarities to some of her plots: the murder occurs at the vicarage, the village is snowbound, etc.

The original title of this book, as published in the UK, is Redemption. Regarding the US title, Jill McGown stated at her website that she did not choose the US title and actually argued with the US publisher that it was inappropriate, since it was so close to the title of Christie's novel. There are many other interesting facts about this novel at Jill McGown's website. Please check it out.

This is the second book in the Lloyd and Hill series of thirteen books. The backstory and the relationship of the main detectives is introduced well, and there is no real need to read the first book in the series, The Perfect Match. However, I loved that book and it was the reason I continued reading the series, so I do highly recommend it. Sergio at Tipping My Fedora reviewed that book recently.

I have reviewed another book in the series, Plots and Errors. Moira at Clothes in Books reviewed Murder... Now and Then recently.

This post is for the Winter Holiday edition of Forgotten Friday Books, which will be featured at Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase, on Friday, November 20th. I try to read several mysteries set at Christmas in the last quarter of the year. Sometimes they are merely set around the holiday time and the Christmas element is minimal. Not so in this case. Judy is dreading Christmas because her in-laws are visiting and her marriage is a shambles. George Wheeler, the vicar, is having a crisis of faith and having problems writing his Christmas Eve sermon. This is a Christmas mystery but not saccharine, and not cozy at all.

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Publisher:  Ballantine Books, 1991. Orig. pub. 1983.
Length:     246 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Lloyd and Hill, #2
Setting:     UK
Genre:      Police Procedural
Source:     I purchased this book.


29 comments:

  1. Ah right... is this book 2 in this series? I bought this for a Christmas present for someone and didn't realise. The person always reads crime series chonologically so I'd better go and get book 1 as well! I'm rather glad I saw this now.

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    1. Book 1 is very good so I recommend getting it, Cath.

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  2. Tracy I have this book! Can't wait to read it now. Great cover!

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    1. I hope you like it, Peggy. And I love the cover too.

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  3. I've just read it too! Am going to post an entry on it closer to Christmas. I am really glad I have rediscovered this series - McGown is very good.

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    1. Good, Moira, I look forward to your review. I am going to continue re-reading this series, but I am also going to look for some of her stand alone novels.

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  4. A writer I read with great pleasure. Need to revisit her.

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    1. I am enjoying my re-reading of this series, Patti. And amazed and pleased that I don't remember much of the plots.

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  5. Such a great reminder, Tracy, that I need to do more with McGown's work. I also need to put it in the spotlight sometimes soon. Thanks.

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    1. She would definitely be a good author to spotlight, Margot.

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  6. Despite being a homage to Christie, I quite like the sound of it thanks. I'll stick to the one I have though!

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    1. Glad it sounds good to you, Col. It isn't cozy but not gritty either.

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  7. I'd heard of McGown when she passed away in 2007. I think I may have her first book. Good to know that you enjoyed her work, Tracy. I have always avoided Christmas themed books just because I've not been interested in holiday themed books in general. That is slowly changing. Thanks for reviewing this and also helpful to know that the book isn't too sweet or all that cozy. I'm actually looking for more books that fit that description.

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    1. I don't know how I discovered this author, Keishon. But it was after she died. I read all of her books one after the other.

      I know what you mean about holiday themed books. I guess it depends on how they are handled. I avoided Jane Haddam's books because the first 10 in the Demarkian series were holiday themed, and it turned out that the publisher had pushed that because the first one was set at Christmas. I loved that series once I got started on it.

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  8. Sounds great and perfect for the season too - thanks for the great review Tracy (and the kind Fedora wink) - I shall definitely be getting this one!

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    1. It is perfect for the season, Sergio. I hope you enjoy it when you read it.

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  9. I couldn't locate this one for my Kindle, but the characters seemed interesting so instead I got a Kindle compilation of three books featuring these characters. Thanks for the review. I love the way Patti's Friday Forgotten Books leads me to books I might like to read.

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    1. I agree, Joe, I often run into books I want to add to my wishlist at Patti's Forgotten Books posts. I think that trio of books may include this one under the alternate title REDEMPTION.

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  10. I couldn't locate this one for my Kindle, but the characters seemed interesting so instead I got a Kindle compilation of three books featuring these characters. Thanks for the review. I love the way Patti's Friday Forgotten Books leads me to books I might like to read.

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  11. I saw this, I think, at Abe books and meant to order a copy but somehow forgot. Now that I've read your review, I will definitely be rectifying that mistake, Tracy. Sounds good. I'm not big on romances mixed in with my mysteries unless it's very well done (i.e. the Bill Slider books by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles) but I'm sold by your review.

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    1. Yvette, when I was trying to remember the romances I like, the Bill Slider books were at the top of the list. I also am OK the one in the Gregor Demarkian novels by Jane Haddam, because it stays in the background most of the time.

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  12. This series is new to me and sounds great. Thanks for the tip. I love this cover, by the way.

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    1. I like the cover a lot too, Richard. I hope you try the series (and hope you like it if you do).

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  13. New to me, too, and sounds like the perfect book to have on hand when snowed in on a cold Christmas Eve.

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    1. It is perfect for me, Mathew, because I never get snowed in. Even in my childhood in Alabama, we only had snow of a few inches once that I remember ... and never around Christmas.

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    2. Thank you for posting about this book--I've just ordered it from the library. A wonderful description.
      Judith (Reader in the Wilderness)

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    3. Great, Judith. I do love her writing and I hope you enjoy it too.

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  14. Tracy, your excellent review makes me want to read a book or two from this series though I'm not sure I'd begin with this novel given its unabashed "tribute" to Christie. I'm also curious to know if Lloyd and Hill eventually get together. No, don't tell me!

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    1. Any of the books in the series are good, Prashant, although I liked the earlier stories better than the last two. But I might change my mind on a reread.

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