Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Rhyme of the Magpie: A Birds of a Feather Mystery

Author:  Marty Wingate
Genre:  Mystery

Alibi Publishing
261 Pages
June 2, 2015

Five Stars

With her personal life in disarray, Julia Lanchester feels she has no option but to quit her job on her father's hit BBC Two nature show, A Bird in the Hand.  Accepting a tourist management position in Smeaton-under-Lyme, a quaint village in the English countryside, Julia throws herself into her new life, delighting sightseers (and a local member of the gentry) with tales of ancient Romans and pillaging Vikings.

But the past is front and center when her father, Rupert, tracks her down in a moment of desperation.  Julia refuses to hear him out; his quick marriage after her mother's death was one of the reasons Julia flew the coop.  But later she gets a distressed call from her new stepmum:  Rupert has gone missing.  Julia decides to investigate - she owes him that much, at least - and her father's new assistant, the infuriatingly dapper Michael Sedgwick, offers to help.  Little does the unlike pair realize that awaiting them is a tightly woven nest of lies and murder.


Julia Lancaster is the daughter of a famous BBC personality, Rupert Lancaster, an orinthologist whose show A Bird in the Hand is extremely popular.  She worked as her father's assistant for years, until he remarried Beryl, her mother's best friend, only six months after her mother's death, crushing her.  She felt he never grieved for her mother, and wondered if he was having an affair even before her mother died. Closing off all communication with him, she accepts a position as a tour manager for the estate of an earl.

When her father enters her place of business one day, hoping to talk over a problem, she's very short with him and he leaves dejectedly.  Later, when Beryl calls her claiming Rupert is missing, Julia reluctantly goes to see her, and meets her father's new assistant, Michael Sedgewick.  Calming Beryl with the fact that Rupert has been known to take 'unplanned vacations' before, she and Michael go to the cottage at Marshy End, where Rupert should be.  Instead, they find a dead body - and Rupert is nowhere to be found.

Not wanting to believe her father is involved in the murder, she knows she must find him before the police do, and unwillingly enlists Michael's help, because someone has stolen her car, and she needs him for transportation if nothing else.

So we have the beginning of a mystery that involves murder, birds (yes, birds) and misunderstandings between several people.  We see Julia trying to find her father while sorting out her feelings for her stepmother, and not at all wanting to face the fact that she needs to deal with things head on.  Julia, you see, is a great believer in the fact that If You Ignore It Then It Will Go Away.  Confrontation is not her strong point; and that's putting it mildly.  Because of this, she has encountered troubles in her life that could have been avoided; and now it looks as if she'll need to face them all at one time, which leads to some hasty decisions on her part, and not all good.

Just when she thinks she has one problem solved, another pops up in its place.  And we are taken along on her journey to find peace with her stepmother, reinforcement of her relationship with her father, and the ability to be able to carry a new relationship without sabotaging it in some way or another; all the while she is trying to find out who murdered the dead man, and why.  

Along the way, we learn quite a bit about how buildings can destroy the future environment for their habitats.  We also learn about birding itself, which made me want to look up their biological and controls and bio-indicators as well.  Fascinating, to say the least.  Not only beautiful to look at, as the saying goes...

When the answer comes, it is so simple that it makes sense.  And the ending is tied up nicely, giving us a feeling of satisfaction, much as Julia must feel for herself.  This is a book that is not only truly enjoyable to read, but satisfying in its resolution of a crime without seeming cloying or unbelievable.  Kudos to Ms. Wingate for another delightful book.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


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