Murder at the Maples (Flora Lively 1) by Joanne Phillips

murder maples 2A promising start…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

When Flora Lively is left to run her father’s removals business after his sudden death, it’s not what she’d planned to do with her life. Constantly at loggerheads with her father’s manager, Marshall, who happens also to be her uncle’s step-son, and with a big new competitor moving in on the territory, this is no time for Flora to be concentrating on other things. But her friend Joy, an old lady recently widowed and now living in the Maples Retirement Village, is getting increasingly upset about odd events that are happening there and wants Flora’s help to investigate. At first Flora thinks Joy is imagining things but gradually she is forced to accept that all is not what it might seem on the surface…

This ‘cosy’ mystery is very well-written and is a promising start to a new series. Phillips gets the balance between plot and humour just about right and on the whole her characterisation is strong. I particularly enjoyed the character of Joy – although elderly and not particularly well, she’s feisty and funny and is determined to get to the root of what’s going on, and it’s refreshing to see an older person get a big role as something other than helpless victim.

Joanne Phillips
Joanne Phillips

Flora’s character is also very well-drawn – a kind-hearted and caring person with a lively interest in people, her interactions with Joy and the other elderly residents are believable and enjoyable. Unfortunately, though, in other ways I found her rather annoying. Aged 29, she behaves like someone a decade younger and I found myself getting progressively irritated with her ‘sexual tension’ wrangling with Marshall, especially since as two single adults there was absolutely no reason for them not to get together if they wanted. I felt we’d all have been a lot happier if they would just get on and get it over with (a point made repeatedly by their employees, though perhaps more tactfully). I was also a little disappointed that she was so rubbish at running the business and yet wouldn’t stand aside and let Marshall do his job. However these are small niggles and first books in series often have these kinds of issues because so much character development has to be packed in all at once.

The plot is complex enough to keep the reader’s attention throughout, with a nice twist or two towards the end. Overall, I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read which will certainly encourage me to stick with the series and see how it develops. Recommended.

This was a TBR Thursday ‘winner’ – here’s the post from Rebecca Bradley that alerted me to it. Thanks, Rebecca!

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