My thanks to Bookouture and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.

Murder in Primrose Cottage is the third in the Flora Steele series of cosy mysteries by Merryn Allingham, which I have been following from the start. While this can be read as a standalone as the mystery is complete and we get enough background on the characters to follow their story as well, there are spoilers in terms of the victims in the previous books.

The series, set in 1950s England follows twenty-five-year-old Flora Steele who runs a bookshop which she inherited from her aunt, in the small Sussex village of Abbeymead. Also living in the village is Jack Carrington, a former reporter, and now writer of mystery novels, who is a recluse but emerges in the first book (and discovers a body) when his errand boy falls ill. The two have become good friends (and partners in solving crime) but while they are interested in each other, they don’t wish to take things further just yet, because of past heartbreaks. At the end of the previous book, Flora who hasn’t taken a holiday in ages had decided to accompany Jack to Cornwall where he is to do research for the first of a series of books he has undertaken to write. There they are to rent Primrose cottage, arrangements for which have been made by Jack’s agent.

They arrive at the cottage and meet Roger Gifford, their landlord who also lends them his housekeeper, Jessie Bolitho who is to keep house and cook for them. But the next morning when Flora goes out to explore the orchard behind the cottage, she finds Roger’s body, his throat slit. While Roger was generally a well-liked man, there were some who bore him grudges—his estranged wife and younger wastrel brother among them; also according to Jessie, he had an argument with the local ‘witch’ or peller Mercy Dearlove. The police have found Roger’s broken watch so believe it to be the work of a mugger, but Flora thinks otherwise. Meanwhile Flora and Jack also begin to visit different places in Cornwall, both of historical interest and those related to the war (which was more recent past in terms of when our book is set) in search of locations and background for Jack’s book, while he also deals with writer’s block of sorts, scrapping plots and tearing things up. But their trips and investigations into Roger’s death are clearly making the murderer nervous for they get targeted repeatedly. Will they manage to identify the killer before he gets them?

This was a fun instalment in this series, and I think my favourite of the books so far. What I loved about this book the most was its setting and the war background. The setting in Cornwall comes through really well in the book with all the locations that they explore including Helston where Flora Day is celebrated every year (a spring festival); Tintagel and its Arthurian Castle; Henry the VII’s Pendennis Castle and the Lizard (and also the numerous pasties they eat; Jessie provides some delicious fare as well). I also kept looking up these sites online as I was reading. Then, there was also the historical background of the war and Signals units in Cornwall to which part of their mystery relates, a part which also links back to Flora’s village (not a spoiler since we know this from the start). I enjoyed exploring Cornwall with Flora and Jack, and also learning about its role in the war, about which like Flora and Jack I didn’t know much (or rather anything).

The mystery itself was interesting, but more than suspects (which we do have a handful), it is the motivations that keep one guessing—is it something to do with Roger’s personal life and problems or his research (which focused on the war efforts in Cornwall); once one makes up one’s mind as to that though, then the whodunit wasn’t so much of a surprise since we did get hints, and one is able to somewhat work out what happened (though not all). But nonetheless, it was fun reading and seeing if one was thinking correctly.

Flora and Jack are likeable characters, and in this book, we get more of a look into Jack’s past—his estrangement with his parents—as we meet his father. The police I am beginning to accept in this series, as being the kind that only appears at the last minute, and invariably is on the wrong track in solving the murders they are faced with. Back in Abbeymead too there are some developments which connect up with events of the past books, and the effects of which I think we will see in subsequent books, as we have a new character introduced in the form of Sally, the niece of Alice who was cook at the Priory (the manor-house-turned-hotel). There was also a fun reference to Enid Blyton, the second time one has come up in this series which I enjoyed being a fan of Blyton.

A fun read overall, in which I very much enjoyed the setting and historical background.

3.9 stars rounded up to 4.

My reviews of the previous books are here and here

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: Murder at Primrose Cottage by Merryn Allingham

  1. Cornwall is always a great setting for mysteries. Are you jealous that I’ve been to most of the places you mention, Tintagel, Helston, etc? I’ve also eaten a fair few Cornish pasties… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The mystery is fairly straightforward, but I really enjoyed visiting Cornwall with the characters.

      Another friend had also wondered about her name and possible connection with Margery Allingham when I reviewed the previous book, but I didn’t come across anything when I looked. Probably coincidence as you say.

      Hope you are feeling better now and the fatigue has improved

      Liked by 1 person

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