Lead Review (The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder)

  • Book: The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder
  • Location: Cairo, Suffolk
  • Author: C L Miller

Review Author: tripfiction

Location

Content

The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder by C L Miller is a riotous and fun country house murder mystery with real moments of tension. This is a book where nothing is as it seems. It’s set in the world of antiques collecting, valuing and faking. Who knew that such a sedate occupation could be a cut-throat business? Dangerous, even. The action purrs along at a satisfying rate, with just the right amount of repetition of the facts to keep the reader on track as the clues are solved and the guilty party (or parties – no spoilers here!) are identified. Needless to say, the murderer isn’t keen to be identified and soon others’ safety is in jeopardy.

The main character is Freya Lockwood, a forty-something housewife and mother. Freya lives in London, but her ex is selling their house, and she has reached a turning point in her life. News reaches her that a family friend and her former mentor, antiques collector Arthur Crockleford, has died in Suffolk, and that she is his executor. Freya travels to her grieving aunt Carole, to offer condolences on the death of her friend and to do her duty. When Carole insists that Arthur was murdered, Freya decides she owes it to her aunt to investigate. Freya is a little unwilling. Together, she and Arthur used to track down lost or stolen antiques, but all that is in the past because she and Arthur fell out twenty years earlier while they were recovering a lost antique. The disagreement ruined her career as an antiques hunter, and she is still resentful. As she awakens long-dormant skills, she begins to feel alive in a way she hasn’t since the tragic events that she and Arthur experienced in Cairo all those years before.

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We follow the action mostly from Freya’s point of view, but we’re treated to scenes featuring a cast of other wonderful characters, too. This is managed skilfully and doesn’t get confusing. It allows us to witness things that Freya couldn’t possibly know and to make guesses about the motivation of the characters. There are still enough red herrings to keep the suspense going.

The characters are sufficiently well developed that you can decide whether to like or dislike, trust or distrust them – there will definitely be some you’ll love to hate! Carole is a wonderful, theatrical foil to the more matter-of-fact detective, Freya. My own favourite character was Bella.

Novel set in SUFFOLK and CAIROSensitive readers need not be put off by the word ‘murder’ in the title: we’re spared the grittier aspects of the crimes, as is typical of cosy crime novels. The only negative is that it probably doesn’t do to question some aspects of the plot too closely, such as why the police aren’t involved. To be fair, that is something that’s common to the genre and why spoil a good story with such things?

The author C L Miller says that she writes about what she knows. There is no questioning her authority to write about antiques, as she belongs to the family who created Miller’s Antique Price Guide. I love a book that educates me, and I learnt a great deal about the antiques trade and the unsavoury practices that threaten to undermine the conservation of national treasures.

Equally, the author is a resident of Suffolk, which enables her to write confidently about the location in which the book is set. There are some lovely descriptions, beginning with the fictional village in the Dedham Vale area; its cottages, church, antique shop and tea room. It is easy to imagine such a village nestled in picturesque, timeless Constable Country. The settings in Cairo are described more briefly as a flashback. Later, the action moves to Cropthorn Manor, a fictional country house in Suffolk, which is suitably Gothic, with its hidden entrances and opportunities for characters to hide and get up to nefarious deeds.

This is a gem for lovers of Agatha Raisin and Father Brown and while it might not achieve the giddy heights of sophistication that Agatha Christy achieves, it is thoroughly entertaining. I understand that this is the first in a series of books, so there are treats in store.

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