The Nidderdale Murders is a great police procedural
The Nidderdale Murders #5 by J.R. Ellis
Published 8/20/2020, 299 pages
Though this is the 5th in a series and I haven't read anything else by this author, this could totally be read as a standalone. I always appreciate when the author of a series doesn't spend half of the current book explaining back story. There are a couple of prior events referenced, but only in passing, and they don't impact this story at all. Well done!
This is a strong police procedural with red herrings everywhere, but Oldroyd, the main detective, and his team of a couple of young detectives keep pushing and eventually solves the puzzle. Similar in feel to Agatha Christie, we learn the back stories of many residents of this village, but none seem to have a motive to kill the victim, a retired judge. It was an interesting technique to have Oldroyd become the "teacher" to his young assistants and encourage their speculations on the case - it took the onus off Oldroyd to have to be the character to suggest all the possibilities.
A somewhat secondary plot line that brings the Agatha Christie feel into more modern times is the use of protesters against grouse hunting. An animal rights activist is one of the suspects since the dead judge held regular grouse hunts for his friends.
The story moved somewhat slowly as all the townspeople are introduced and it's determined they seem to have no motive. When a second murder occurs, everything kicks up a notch and the investigation becomes more urgent. You'll never guess the twist that leads to discovering the murderer! (no spoilers here!)
Almost as interesting as the murder investigation is the great descriptions of the dales and fells and general landscape of the area - clearly the author loves this part of England. And the town names! I actually went onto Google maps to see if they're real, and sure enough - there they all were.....a bunch of little villages in the back of nowhere in the middle of GB.
"Descriptive poems celebrating landscape were common, but difficult to write without resorting to cliches. He got out the maps and saw how many unusual names for fields, summits, woods, rocks, and moorland there were in the dales area. It was a wonderfully evocative language. You could feel its Viking age and its Yorkshire eccentricity and strangeness. - Crutching Close Laithe, Yarnthwaite Barn, Hawkswick Clowder, Pikesdaw Barn."
So, a good cozy murder mystery with a good variety of characters, very evocative of a place, and a satisfying ending - what else could you possibly want?
photo: wikipedia Nidderdale By Chris R (user Cyclopaedic)