The Bookshop Murder by Merryn Allingham #BookReview #BooksOnTour


Join Flora Steele – bookshop owner, bicycle-rider, day dreamer and amateur detective as she tackles her first case!

Sussex, 1955: When Flora Steele opens up her bookshop one morning she’s in for the surprise of her life! Because there, amongst her bookcases, is the body of a young man, with a shock of white-blond hair. But who was he? And how did he come to be there?

Determined to save her beloved bookshop’s reputation and solve the baffling mystery, Flora enlists the help of handsome and brooding Jack Carrington: crime writer, recluse and her most reliable customer.
The unlikely duo set about investigating the extraordinary case, following a lead across the sleepy village of Abbeymead to The Priory Hotel. When the hotel’s gardener dies suddenly, and they find out their victim was staying there, Flora’s suspicions are raised.

Are the two deaths connected? Is someone at the hotel responsible – the nervous cook, the money-obsessed receptionist, or the formidable manageress?

As the trail of clues takes Flora and Jack all over the village it becomes clear there’s more than one person hiding secrets in Abbeymead…

But does Flora have what it takes to uncover the truth – or will her amateur sleuthing put her in harm’s way?

It's such a pleasure to be today's host for The Bookshop Murder Books On Tour. Many thanks to Bookouture, Merryn Allingham and Sarah Hardy for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel received through Netgalley.

How could I resist a book with the title 'The Bookshop Murder'?! However, I have to admit that it was the front cover that originally caught my attention as the cobbled hill pictured on the front is Gold Hill (also known as Hovis Hill) in my home town of Shaftesbury. The novel is actually set in Sussex rather than Dorset but although there are mentions of nearby towns, Abbeymead itself is an archetypal English village and the ideal setting for a cosy mystery.
I tend to read darker crime fiction but every so often I enjoy a lighter read and The Bookshop Murder fitted the bill perfectly. Introducing Flora Steele, it's a fabulous introduction to what I hope will be a successful series, particularly if Jack Carrington continues to feature alongside her. A cosy mystery with a period setting is bound to attract comparisons to Agatha Christie and fans of her Tommy and Tuppence characters will find much to enjoy here.
Set in 1955, Flora is the owner of the All's Well bookshop having been left it by her beloved Aunt Violet who also raised her after the tragic death of her parents when she was a young child. As the novel progresses, it becomes clear that although she treasures the shop, her loyalty to her aunt and her sense of duty have cost her dearly. Flora is a bright, charismatic young woman who once longed to travel but circumstances have meant she is tied to a business that is barely staying afloat. Then a body is discovered in the bookshop which leads to whispered gossip about strange happenings there and people become reluctant to shop there. Flora realises she has to find out why the healthy young man died so suddenly. The police and pathologist are happy to accept that it was an unlikely heart attack which killed him but Flora isn't so sure and her suspicions are shared by reclusive crime writer, Jack Carrington.
Although this is an intriguing murder mystery, it's also an engaging character driven novel and the two main characters are both likeable people with interesting back stories which meant I was as fascinated by them as I was by the whodunnit. Flora is intuitive and impulsive whereas Jack is more measured and objective. They make a great team and I loved their growing friendship and hints of a romantic spark between them. There are, of course, a number of potential suspects around the village and although it's obvious that the dogged amateur detectives will eventually uncover the truth, it's immensely entertaining following them as they get to that point. There are moments of danger too and though I always knew that things would work out, the change in tension works well and I was glued to the pages waiting to find out what would happen. 
The period setting allows for some lovely little details such as Jack's enthusiasm for ham sandwiches, due to meat still being a novelty following years of rationing. It also means Merryn Allingham can explore what postwar life was like, particularly for women; as Flora notes they proved their worth during the war but are now being pushed back into the kitchen and the nursery. Flora wants more and as the ending of the novel suggests, it looks as though she may just get what she wants. More gentle murder mysteries are perennially popular and even though this is just the first Flora Steele case, I'm already willing to state that I would love to see it televised. The Bookshop Murder is a truly captivating cosy mystery and I thoroughly recommend this delightful book. 

The Bookshop Murder is published by Bookouture and can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Don't miss the other Books On Tour stops, details are below.

About the Author
Merryn taught university literature for many years, and it took a while to pluck up the courage to begin writing herself. Bringing the past to life is a passion and her historical fiction includes Regency romances, wartime sagas and timeslip novels, all of which have a mystery at their heart. As the books have grown darker, it was only a matter of time before she plunged into crime with a cosy crime series set in rural Sussex against the fascinating backdrop of the 1950s.

 Merryn lives in a beautiful old town in Sussex with her husband. When she’s not writing, she tries to keep fit with adult ballet classes and plenty of walking.


  1. Thank you for a wonderful review, Karen. I'll cross my fingers for a TV adaptation!


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