This is the first murder mystery novel I’ve read in a long time, so many thanks to Diana J. Febry for reintroducing me to this neglected genre for me. Reading Diana’s novel, Bells On Her Toes, reminded me just how important a good plot is, and how giving the reader something to think about is to the reader’s enjoyement. Diana J. Febry is the author of five novels, and in her own words, her mysteries combine eccentric rural characters, village politics and as many teists and turns as a country lane. As well as being an author, she is an active book reviewer and contributor to several online writing groups.
Diana J. Febry was born near Bristol and educated at Oxford Brookes University. She continues to live near Bristol with her husband and two teenage children. When not writing she spends her time roaming the countryside with her dog and horses.
Further links to Diana J. Febry’s writing can be found at:
Bells On Her toes
By Diana J. Febry
(Available from Amazon as an eBook)
Set against the murky backdrop of the world of race horse training, Diana J Febry has produced a real murder mystery and detective whodunit (and why), filled with twists and turns and lots of deliciously deceptive red herrings to keep the reader guessing and trying to fathom who the murderer is. Given the setting, it inevitably gives rise to comparison with Dick Francis, but having read both I would say this book owes more to the influence of say a modern day Agatha Christie – I could easily picture this book as one of those very English murder mysteries dramas although this is definitely more Morse than Frost. With her background and knowledge, Diana J Febry has used the horse racing and training world to give the story a character and feel all of its own but without immersing the reader too deeply in it; likewise with the investigative and police procedural elements, she has concentrated on telling a story rather than trying to impress the reader with her knowledge of the former.
The story starts off predictably enough with the discovery of dead body (with a gunshot wound) in the barn of a country estate, but others are soon to follow. As the Detective duo DCI Peter Hatherall and DC Fiona Williams start their investigations we are introduced to a wide and esoteric cast of characters. With each new character new theories arise regarding the initial murder, some more probable than others and some wildly speculative, though if I had but one small criticism in this area it would be that I think some of the theories and speculation alluded to by the locals was just a tad too off the mark and slightly out of sync with the overall feel of the story, taking it slightly into the realms of a thriller at times.
Due to the plot driven nature of murder mystery stories, I don’t want to allude to too many specific elements of the plot for fear of spoiling it any way, but what I can say is that this is a well-crafted literary jigsaw encompassing lost and past love, possibe offiicial shady goings on involving the environment, and official cover ups to name but a few, all inviting the reader to reach premature conclusions as the author sends the reader in several different directions with the different lines of enquiry.
Given the number of characters I was impressed with how well they were developed and how that development was incorporated into the overall story. The subplots were cleverly weaved into the wider story to give them relevance rather than being used simply to add extra pages. The dialogue between the two lead detectives and the rest of the characters was realistic, driving the story forward when necessary while at other times giving the reader time to pause and speculate as to which way the story is going, which for me is one of the enjoyments of reading this type of book. I also liked the fact that the relationship between the two detectives wasn’t without its problems, and I enjoyed watching how it developed with just the merest hint at a possible romance. Although this is the first of this author’s books I’ve read, I know from reading the blurbs of her other novels that this isn’t the last we’re destined to see of DCI Peter Hatherall and DI Fiona Williams I’m pleased to say. I would rate this in the region of 4.5 to 4.7, and since that’s way closer to 5 than 4, it gets a five star rating from me.
Diana J. Febry’s current titles: Click on thumbnails for Amazon links