Book Review

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

PS: thanks for the murders.

The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death.

But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…

And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…

And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…

Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

I loved The Stranger Diaries and was delighted to hear that Elly Griffiths has written a second novel featuring DS Harbinder Kaur.  While this is a welcome indication for a potential series – does two novels a series make? – it’s worth noting that the two books feel quite different to each other.  Both evidence a love of books, but where The Stranger Diaries has elements of Gothic fiction, The Postscript Murders evokes the feeling of a Golden Age mystery.  And I think that you’re safe to read this one without having read its predecessor.  DS Kaur links the two, but they’re both separate novels that don’t need to be read in order.

As much as I enjoy a police procedural, I like that this novel doesn’t take itself too seriously in that regard.  DS Kaur is an excellent character – astute, observant, and very good at her job. I love the sections focussing on her investigation, and Griffiths provides sufficient personal detail on this character to make her thoroughly engaging. But she also overshares some – not all – of the details of the investigation with characters who are tangentially involved in a way that just wouldn’t happen in real life.  It gives something a little different as we see both the formal police investigation alongside some amateur sleuthing. It’s a different take on this type of novel and makes for a unique read, but one in which the reader feels that they can get involved in working out whodunnit.  

Our amateur sleuths in this instance are a decidedly varied bunch, and not individuals who you might expect to come together.  Natalka is a Ukrainian living in the UK and working as a carer but is not the character that you might expect based upon this description. She has something of a lively past that may cause some problems for the group.  Benedict is an ex-monk turned barista who gets dragged into the mystery by Natalka.  Then there’s Edwin, a resident at Seaview Court and a friend of Peggy’s who just seems happy to be included and to be able to get out for a while.  They all have their idiosyncrasies, and while they’re a strange bunch, they are also hugely likeable. I think that the reader feels like they’re a part of their investigation in trying to solve the mystery, and this is a wonderful hook for readers who like to play detective.

I love the concept of The Postscript Murders, and I would love to see Peggy Smith in action before her death.  Ostensibly, she is a little old lady who lives alone and dies in what are initially thought to be natural circumstances.  But behind the little old lady façade was a brilliant mind that was often engaged in thinking up weird and wonderful ways for authors to kill their darlings, often helping them to get out of whatever difficult corner they’d written themselves into.  It seems that she had quite the past, and questions are raised as to whether her death was indeed as natural as it first appears. It’s a great idea and I was hooked from the start. 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Postscript Murders and recommend it to those who enjoy a Golden Age mystery. Filled with wonderful and quirky characters, this is a hugely enjoyable series, and I really hope that we haven’t seen the last of DS Harbinder Kaur.

The Postscript Murders is published by Quercus and is available now in paperback, eBook, and audio formats. You can see my review of The Stranger Diaries here.

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