Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.
In Ann Purser’s third Ivy Beasley mystery, the main character, described as a cross between Jessica Fletcher, Miss Marple and Mrs Slocum from ‘Are You Being Served’, assembles the Springfield Retirement Home’s Investigative team (known as Enquire Within) to look into a mysterious disappearance. But that’s not until Ivy manages to solve a less urgent vanishing – that of the local shopkeeper’s cat. Having got that one speedily out of the way as a precursor, thereby establishing her credentials, she moves on to the main job – a missing person.
But one of the team - Gus Halfhide - is more closely involved than usual, the missing person being his former wife, Katherine, who has descended on the village and the hapless Gus, only to vanish again just as suddenly. All she leaves behind is an earring and a glimpse of a hand in the undergrowth – a hand which is gone by the time the local police get round to taking a reluctant look.
The outspoken and often cranky Ivy isn’t at all backward in suggesting that Gus might know more than he is saying (he has no love for his ex-wife and wouldn’t even have her staying in the same house as him), temporarily causing a split in the ranks. Also in the frame is a mysterious saxophonist on a short-term job playing with Sid’s Swingers, who is seen in the area of the woods where the hand was seen.
But all is not what it seems, and Gus, who doesn’t believe his ex-wife has come to any harm, decides to go in search of her in Scotland.
High on humour and pithy exchanges between the aged and ageing characters, which only they can get away with without resorting to violence, this is a warm-hearted and well-drawn portrayal of crime in the slow lane, with a good dash of naughtiness (and a spot of skinny-dipping), along with regular bouts of gentle sniping, gossip and tartness.
The Enquire Within team are quirky, funny and impossible to tie down, and Ann Purser’s humour shines through on every page. English village mystery fiction at its best.