The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths has just published another novel in the Ruth Galloway series, which I'll be reading and reviewing very soon, but in the meantime, I've recently read The Postscript Murders. Although it features DS Harbinder Kaur, who also appeared in The Stranger Diaries (which I reviewed here), it's more a less a standalone novel and you don't need to have read The Stranger Diaries to read this one.

The Postscript Murders is a mystery set in the south coast seaside town of Shoreham, and begins with an elderly woman being found dead by her carer Natalka at Seaview Court, a block of retirement flats. Although Peggy Smith was in her nineties, Natalka is convinced she was murdered, and enlists coffee shop owner Benedict and Peggy's friend and neighbour Edwin to join her in solving the mystery - but whether they will be a help or a hindrance to Harbinder's official investigation remains to be seen.

Like The Stranger Diaries, The Postscript Murders is a mystery that is, at least in part, about books and writing. Peggy, it turns out, was known among crime writers for her services as a 'murder consultant', helping them with their thornier plot problems. Could one of them have wanted her dead? Or is the killer someone with an axe grind against the world of crime fiction in general?

This is an escapist mystery rather than gritty realism. There's an ex-monk, a road trip to Aberdeen, Ukrainian gangsters, old ladies with mysterious pasts, threatening letters, guns, matchmaking Indian aunties, a hint of romance - but it all comes together into a cohesive whole, so sit back and go along for the ride. 

Elly Griffiths is an excellent writer of characters as well as plots and in The Postscript Murders she gives us an ensemble cast that I really enjoyed spending time with - I'm sure it's possible we might meet some of them again in future books.

I read this at a particularly bleak stage of pandemic lockdown, during which I've been struggling with concentration, and it really was the perfect book for me to have picked up. The seaside setting and the road trip chapters were very appealing at a time when when I haven't been allowed to travel anywhere further than my local Sainsbury's, and it's such a well-crafted page-turner that it's an effortless read. It's offbeat without tipping over into whimsicality, with characters and dialogue that are often funny, and that was exactly what I needed.