7th April 2016, Constable, 288 pages, Paperback, Review copy
Summary from Little, Brown
It's springtime and Whitstable is emerging from hibernation.
While neither the restaurant nor detective agency is too busy, Pearl resolves to spend some time at the family allotment. But her best friend, Nathan, has persuaded one of his favourite actresses to open the May Day festivities at Whitstable Castle and involves Pearl in his plans.
Like Pearl, Faye Marlowe is a Whitstable native, but having left the town more than two decades ago, the star has been living in the South of France since her agent's phone stopped ringing. Charming but 'sensitive', she arrives with a small entourage and though her presence in the town causes a stir Pearl's mother Dolly remains unimpressed, choosing to remember Faye Marlow when she was plain old Frankie Murray, the daughter of a local whelk merchant.
Nathan soon realises he has made a mistake with this invitation and his doubts are confirmed when Faye is nowhere to be found on the morning of May Day. And as 'Jack in the Green' puts on his impressive costume to lead the parade, the actress's dead body is discovered - tethered to the maypole on the Castle grounds . . . and so it's left to Pearl and DCI Mike McGuire to unravel the mystery of the May Day murder.
This is undoubtedly my most favourite book of the series to date! The only minor niggle I had was the slightly frustrating issue of Pearl & McGuire's relationship. I know it's an important part of the plot, but I just wish he'd quit his job and go work with Pearl to remove the major issues between them. I so hope they do this in book 4.
Minus that, this had all the usual elements of the Whitstable mysteries: obviously there's murder, there's something going on in Pearl's personal life, plenty of plot twists, lots of uncertainty, many questions to ponder as the story plays out. There's plenty of family centred drama for Pearl: her mother's opinions - especially about Faye - are a continued source of amusement for me. I liked how even Pearl's son causes a scene (all meanings of scene meant here), which had me on tenderhooks until the truth was discovered. There were many moments where I held my breath, which in my view makes for a more enjoyable book.
Because I frequently struggle to figure out who the murderer is, I enjoyed trying to work out who the victim would be. I was wrong, by the way. I thought it might be Faye's maid, rather than Faye herself. Oh well! Yes, I realise I had read the summary of the book, but that was a few weeks before I read the book, so by that time I'd forgotten what the blurb said.
Faye was quite a character. She seemed very sweet and charming, genuinely so, although she clearly had A Past which was catching up with her. I felt sorry for her during the pudding incident - I can't say more than that, but despite what she did I don't think she deserved the outcome. She definitely didn't deserved to be killed, not in such a memorable fashion. I certainly won't think of May poles in the same way! (I used to see them when my primary school held a fete each year. I no longer attend them, but have fond memories).
I felt sorry for Pearl because Faye was a demanding customer, someone who Pearl didn't want to disappoint because hosting a celebrity is such a huge deal, and a good publicity boost. Pearl successfully reacts to the cooking challenges Faye provides her with, as well as doing her best to seek justice for Faye, alongside helping other residents of Whitstable who are surprised (as I was) by the results of Pearl's findings. I'm definitely looking forward to book #4, whenever it comes out!
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