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Retired Colonel Hugh (second name annoyingly never given) lives in a cottage in the English village of Frog End. A widower, he lives alone except for Thursday, a cat which has adopted him, but he’s on friendly terms with his neighbours, especially Naomi from next door, who pops round most evenings for a drink. Apparently this book is part of a series about Hugh and I get the impression his village and neighbours feature more prominently in the earlier books. In this one, however, Hugh has been invited to stay with old friends who now run a Bed and Breakfast in Buckby, near an old RAF Bomber Command station. While he is there, there is to be a reunion of members of the Bomber crews, some of whom will also be staying at the B&B. At first everything goes well, but when a tragic death occurs, Hugh can’t help wondering if it wasn’t as accidental as the police seem to think…
This falls firmly into the category of ‘cosy’, situated in the type of English village that really only exists in the pages of Agatha Christie or in episodes of Midsomer Murders. It’s well written and the character of Hugh is rounded and sympathetic, and his conversations with his inquisitive but helpful neighbour Naomi give us the opportunity to get to know more about him and about life in the village.
In a note at the beginning, the author reminds readers that the crews of Bomber Command were somewhat forgotten after the war, and it’s only recently that a memorial has been erected to them. A good deal of this book is given over to filling in some of the history of this part of the war effort, told mainly through the reminiscences of the crew members. In fact, that aspect really crowds out the mystery element to a large degree – it felt that Mayhew’s real intent was to pay tribute to the bombers.
While I enjoyed the book overall, I had a feeling of time displacement all the way through. If the action is taking place in the near-present, which it seems to be from some of the references, that would mean that the youngest of these veterans would have to be in his mid-eighties, and they seemed an exceptionally sprightly bunch of octogenarians to me. The Colonel himself is described as having served in ‘post-war Colonial Singapore’ and yet he doesn’t come over as old enough for that either. I felt the book would have worked better if it had been clearly set in the 1990s. However, that aside, the war element of the book felt well-researched and as if it gave an accurate picture of what life may have been like for the Bomber crews. For my taste, the book was too heavily weighted towards the historical aspect at the expense of creating a good mystery plot, but overall I found it an entertaining read nonetheless.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Severn House.