2 out of 4 stars
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The plot line of Murder on the Wold is complicated, to say the least. The story takes place in the Cotswold region of England, with a few minor detours to Australia. Local farmer Joe Farmer discovers a dead body in a community garden in the sleepy hamlet of Crompton. At about the same time, reports of a young schoolgirl's kidnapping surface. The media frenzy swirls around the kidnapping and all but obliterates coverage of the grisly find, later determined to be a murder. Although there are so many characters that author Kevin Hurst is compelled to provide a cast list, the main protagonists emerge as Mildred “Millie” Loretta English, a psoriasis-afflicted detective constable, and George Mallard, who is known around the police station as the man with no bum. These two carry the bulk of the investigative weight, chase several logical paths that turn out to be dead ends, and eventually solve the crimes.
The opening paragraphs of this novel promise clever and funny writing. When describing sunbathers on the beach, Hurst writes, “The scene was rather like some ancient religious ceremony, where people were lying prostrate and worshipping their two principal Gods – Carcinoma Basal and his senior – Carcinoma Squamous.” Along the way there are several other brilliant descriptions, one of my favorites being, “He was sitting on the sofa, lavishly attired in just his boxer shorts, which had numerous access points allowing him to scratch any familiar round objects that he might inadvertently come across; and whenever the need might take his fancy.” I wish these examples reflected the quality of the book in total, but, in fact, they are the few rare gems in this work.
Hurst writes in long, complicated sentences. He’s graphically descriptive, but sometimes it takes a lot of concentration to really get the full picture of what he’s talking about. There’s a lot of telling rather than showing, especially in the opening chapters. I read for a long time before I connected to any of the characters or got a sense that the action had anything to do with the blurb. There are many scenes that seem pointless but ultimately aren’t. There’s also a lot happening that seems pointless and actually is pointless. For example, Hurst spends considerable time on detailing a drive from the police station to a field, complete with lane changes and stop light reports. These long detours are more suited to memoir hijinks and only add unwelcome bulk to the crime story.
Each chapter begins with a song quote, but the purpose of this device is murky. The endnotes advise the reader to listen to the entire mentioned song for additional understanding, but that didn’t clarify anything for me. In the middle of Chapter Nineteen, Hurst throws in a warning about forthcoming coarse language and nudity. This is evidently for a scene in which George falls in the bath, but it's so mild I can't imagine who he's worried about offending. Both the warning and the scene are unnecessary. The formatting is distracting, with no indentation for the first line of each paragraph, nor as an alternative, extra space between paragraphs. Semi-colons appear in strange places. Each line of dialogue starts on a new line even when the same character is still speaking, and there aren’t many attribution tags. It’s tough to keep up with who is talking, or even who is on stage in any particular scene. The constantly changing POV makes following the thread all the more difficult. There are many other errors throughout the book making this a frustrating read.
Anyone who likes mystery stories will be drawn to this book because of the title, but ultimately it’s a disappointing ride. There’s a minuscule element of romance that readers of that genre might like, although it’s awkward and not very pretty, which is probably a more accurate portrayal of real life. I’m giving Murder on the Wold two out of four stars. There’s a decent idea here for the police procedural story, but there’s way too much extraneous action that gets in the way of the main plot.
Murder on the Wold
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