Murder in the Margins by Margaret Loudon is the first novel in a brand-new cosy mystery series called the Open Book Mysteries. It follows an author named Penelope Parish. After her debut hit, she finds herself struggling with a severe bout of writer’s block. Believing that a change of environment may suit her best, she takes up a writer-in-residence position at a small bookstore in Chumley-on-Stoke, England. However, shortly after her arrival, a quiet retreat becomes nigh impossible for Penelope when the chairwoman for a local festival is found murdered. An American author and soon-to-be Duchess of Worthington, as well as an acquaintance of Penelope’s, is perceived as the culprit. With the help of local friends and her floofy kitty, Penelope promises to assist in proving her friend’s innocence!
When I couldn’t decide on what genre I wanted to read, I picked up this little cosy title because I felt it would be a great fit for the rainy weather we were having, and it would be light enough to engage me without too much intellectual effort. There were many things about Murder in the Margins that I found to be pleasant and one or two things I wish will improve as the series moves onwards.
It was very easy for me to relate to Penelope Parish and her bouts of Writer’s Block. When I initially started reading this book, I was smack dab in the middle of one such rut myself. Reading about her travelling to a different country and the surroundings that had helped motivate her to work on her book, bit by bit at a time, was greatly encouraging to me. I found myself doing whatever I could that was similar to her techniques and it helped me to outline a brand-new cosy mystery series of my own! So, in that regard, I found Penelope to be a rather amiable lady.
Aside from Penelope, there are some side characters that are also fun in their own unique ways. There’s the owner of the bookstore where Penelope is the writer-in-residence, a little old lady with spunk that made me laugh more often than not. There’s also a couple of other older women who have their own personal baggage that helped to humanise them and add some depth to their potentiality for being the killer. I am looking forward to seeing how these ladies get their feet back on the ground in future instalments, as well as how their relationships with the protagonist shall deepen (or depart).
The murder itself was pretty low-key. It’s a standard shooting and the character that ends up dying is someone I believed would get the axe as soon as they were introduced. This person is less than likable, to say the least. The more that we learn about them, the more I was surprised that they weren’t killed sooner! They are just such a terrible human. However, this worked on keeping the mystery alive as to who had the gall to finally silence them.
There is a Duke in the book and his engagement to a certain Duchess was a neat side element to read about. It plays a small part in the overall plot and I’m sure that a wedding shall make an appearance in a future instalment of Open Book Mysteries, which I’m excited for! They were both kind people and not uppity arseholes that you’d normally expect from folx related to royals.
Lastly, I adored the British countryside! The descriptions of the small town and the little shoppes that make up the atmosphere of Upper Chumley-on-Stoke was cute and charming! If it were closer to the ocean, then I feel it’d be a perfect getaway for me one day! It was also entertaining to see how Penelope learns the American way of making tea is… despicable, to put it nicely. When she starts to brew tea like a proper Brit, and enjoyed the results of the process, my heart bloomed. As an avid tea drinker, brewing a proper cup of it is something I just take such pleasure in and it was nice to see the same effect on Penelope.
If I had to complain about anything at all it is that I wish Penelope’s kitty, Mrs Danvers, had a more prominent presence in the novel. She sounded so adorable and you really can’t have too much kitty-time in a cosy book such as this! Also, the small-town gossiping can get grating after a while, more so if one isn’t necessarily the gossiping sort! So it’s something to keep in mind if you decide to pick this up.
All in all, Murder in the Margins is a pleasant cosy mystery that will appeal to all fans of the genre. It’s very easy to read, relatively short (just shy of 320 pages), has a good, laid-back mystery to it that, and some wonderful English countryside scenery. I highly recommend it to anyone that is searching for a cosy treat to satiate their appetites, more so if you’re a lover of rain and England!
Publication Date: October 2020
Publisher: Berkley (ISBN: 978-0-59309-9261)
Genre: Cosy Mystery
Series: Open Book Mystery
Page Count: 320
Content Warnings: Murder (off-page). Mention of alcoholism. Mention of infidelity. Mention of media gaslighting. Blackmailing. Small town gossip. Kidnapped kitty.
GoodReads: Murder in the Margins by Margaret Loudon