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I booked a weeks holiday recently and wanted to make sure I took a couple of good books with me to enjoy. I bought this book a while ago and to be honest I can't remember either when or where. However I did not realise this book has been adopted for television in the Rosemary and Thyme series. Had I known that I probably would not have bought it as I have watched a few of these and not particularly enjoyed these, so I just hoped the book would be somewhat different.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Laura Thyme visits the village of Baffington because her Cousin Keith has become the vicar there. This was against his parents wishes and his relationship with them has become very strained as a result. However during her short time there she meets several of the locals at the village fête that Keith had organised. The day is blighted when one of Keith's parishioners has a heart attack in the grounds under massive and overgrown Yew tree and dies where he fell.
A year later Keith sends Laura an urgent message as he needs her help tidying up the Church grounds. So he calls in the gardening skills of Laura and her partner Rosemary as there is shortly a Medieval Fayre. This has been organised by the historian and enthusiast Franklin Danvers who believes this will put the village on the map and be very popular with locals who are hard at being trained for the event and visitors.
Danvers has ambitious plans for the village and is keen to set up a museum and purchase the farm land currently owned by Maria Sutton whose father died in the church yard the year before. She has been struggling to make ends meet and isn't running the farm in an efficient way. The situation is clouded with a company also interested in this land because of its many Yew trees, as they are working on cures for Cancer and believe if they can buy this land with all its Yew trees they can develop a cure. A meeting is called with the villagers a couple of weeks before the Fayre to discuss the options and for the Company to give the people more information about them. But at the end of the day the decision will be Maria's and her wayward brother Malcolm.
==My thoughts on this book:==
Against my initial fears I found this was a very interesting and absorbing crime mystery. For me it was nothing like the television series and I thought it was well written. There was plenty of depth in the story and it was for me a real mystery and there was lots of doubt about firstly what was going to happen to the village and who had committed a murder within it.
What was so good for me was all the leading characters and even some of the ones on the verges of the story had reasons why they could have committed this crime because of the grand plans for change to this very unspoilt and quiet village. The mystery was thick and as a result I never had a clue about who had done it or exactly why, as the field was wide open with plenty of motives for crime.
This was my first experience of the work of Brian Eastman and I certainly did not realise that he is head of one of the UK's leading independent production companies. The cynic in me would suggest this is one of the reasons this series has been transferred from book to television programme. But I have to say having read this piece of fiction that I think it would transfer well and I will look out for this one to see how it compares. My initial reaction having read the book and seen other episodes would be the book would be much better, but then I am biased I always think books are better!!
On this performance alone I think Brian Eastman is a very talented author. As this was a very well written story. It was well thought out with lots happening within the main story plus there was sub plots and relationships that you where never sure if they were important or just background on the characters so that you formed a greater understanding of them and their roles within the story. I thought in this book the author had the level of depth just right and I enjoyed all the descriptions particularly the ones of the village and the church grounds.
What struck me when I first picked the book up was the front cover. I was immediately taken by the picture of the church in the background with the grounds and the tree in foreground. The picture seemed to my eyesight a little blurred and it added a sense of mystery about it. The other thing that I liked was the intriguing tittle of the book, I thought this was excellent and left me wondering exactly what was the author thinking about and how could it be the tree of death?
I flicked the book over to find out from the summary what it was all about. Here I find one sentence and one paragraph about the book. Initially I thought how short this was but I found in that short piece of writing I was very interested in reading the story. It set the scene really well and was just the right level of depth without giving too much away. It goes to prove as long as you have a good idea you do not need a lot of preamble and woffle. Perhaps I should learn from this as I know when I'm writing a review I have a tendency to go on a bit!! The only thing that slightly annoyed me was there was three compliments about the series in general. I was unsure if this was about the series of books or the television series but I was sure it wasn't about this book which for my money is a shame as I would certainly compliment the author on this one.
The story itself started with Laura's first visit to see her Cousin Keith now a Vicar. It was a good start I thought as I got to learn a lot of background to him and his new life in the sleepy village of Baffington. Although I did initially struggle as we where introduced to several of the villagers and the first descriptions of them where not to detailed it was only later we learnt more about their characteristics, interests and personalities.
It was a very easy story to get into and I liked the way while Laura was visiting Keith the second chapter introduced Rosemary in a different setting planning and speaking at a meeting. This allowed the reader to see how different these ladies were and to earn more about their differences that would allow me to instantly remember and picture who was who later in the story.
It was the third chapter however when the two ladies started working in the village that the story really began to create more interest. As character where introduced and you started to feel that this was a community with its problems and the concern was what was going to happen if Maria Sutton decided to sell her lands and what the implications of the proposed new owners would be for the local people.
The story was really enjoyable and I liked the village meeting where everything was turned on its head by a new development. It added far more suspense and you started to wonder what agenda's people really had and that everyone in the neighbourhood had a good reason for being unhappy what they heard and how it would change the community completely.
I liked all the possibilities this created and the fact Rosemary and Thyme where right in the middle of all this doing their gardening work on the church yard. The story had a traditional Agatha Christie feel about it where as there were so many people that could have committed a murder and there was so much mystery that changed as the finger of suspicion moved from person to person with each new development in the story.
With many unexpected twists in the story a lot of which I did no see coming. My only real criticism I had with the story was why the two main characters Rosemary and Laura did not share all the information they had with the Police. I would have thought especially as for once we had an Officer that was pleased with their input and welcomed their ideas, that they should have been more willing to work with him and share all the updates on developments in the village with him.
The story had a really good feel about it and I was constantly wondering who had committed the crime. The pace was good because there was always new unexpected developments all the time. With an exciting conclusion that was well thought out, made complete sense and was exciting. The only thing that I thought the author had wrong was the very end there was too much in the sense of what was to happen afterwards. Yes its always good to know what happens next but for me this was too long and detailed.
Rosemary and Laura where the two central characters in the story. And unlike the television series I thought I learnt a lot about their characters and real differences in their interests. I like the way they worked together and shared their knowledge. Although I did wonder how they where always on hand to witness developments and on hear conversations. I found I liked them both although in a sense they where a little like younger versions of Miss Marple!!
They where supported with an excellent array of support characters. For me they really made the story because they where all so different and all had different agenda's and wanted different things for the community. The level of detail about them all was just right with the author only sharing with the reader limited information so there was always suspicion and a sense of mystery about them all. I found some I wanted to know a lot more about because they where good characters with had so much depth about them.
The length of the book was about right to tell a wonderful story full of suspense and mystery. My only real criticism was the way the author seemed hell bent on crossing all the I's and dotting all the t's (or is it the other way round!!). Yes in a sense it is nice to close everything off but I do like quite often to leave more open to our own imagination after the solutions has been found. So for me the last 12 or so pages where not necessary at all.
I was really impressed with this well thought out and highly enjoyable mystery. I would definitely recommend it and I thought it was far far better then the Television series. I thought there was so much mystery throughout the book to enjoy with so many characters who could have committed the crime. It was intelligently written and as an amateur sleuth I never had the right solution until the end which was a real bonus.
Price: 4.99 new at Amazon
Publisher:Allison & Busby
Year first published: 2006
Thanks for reading.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS March 2012.