Murder on the Downs (Whitstable Pearl Mystery #7) – Julie Wassmer
Publisher – Constable/Little, Brown
Available in Ebook, Audio and Paperback (7 May 2020)
Source: Copy received for review
ABOUT THE BOOK
A controversial new property development is planned in Whitstable which will encroach upon the green open space of the downs, to the dismay of Whitstable residents who view this as the thin end of the wedge with regard to local wildlife conservation.
A campaign springs into life, spearheaded by a friend of Pearl’s family, Martha Laker. A committed environmentalist, Martha is no stranger to controversy herself. She has also managed to divide opinion across town, with the locals viewing her as their fearless champion while establishment figures seeing only an interfering agitator.
Tensions escalate between the developers and Whitstable residents, straining Pearl’s close relationship with London-born police officer, DCI Mike McGuire, who harbours concerns that the local campaign will spiral out of control. Pearl’s loyalties are torn, but the protest duly goes ahead – and newspaper headlines claim a moral victory for the residents in this David and Goliath battle.
But the victory is short lived when Pearl discovers a dead body on the downs…
This is a series that I have been collecting for a while, ever since meeting Julie Wassmer at a local book festival event in Essex a few years ago. In fact I have bought the previous 4 books in the series, including 3 signed hardback copies, but this is the first I’ve actually read! 😳 My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invitation and to the publisher for the paperback copy to review. I was very pleased to finally make Pearl’s acquaintance and only sorry it took me so long.
As well as being the owner of the ‘Whitstable Pearl’ a restaurant in Whitstable (Whitstable is somewhere I’ve never been, but would like to visit especially after reading this book), Pearl Nolan also has her private detective agency. As someone who formerly trained with the police but gave it up to become a mother, she still has investigating skills and can’t resist becoming involved, even when it causes conflict with her relationship with Canterbury detective, DCI Mike Maguire.
In this story, the locals are campaigning to try and prevent a property developer from building on land close to the Downs. With legal challenges involved and some hints of rather dodgy dealings, feeling are running high between the local environmentalists and those in favour of the development. When a protest camp is set up at which Pearl’s son Charlie and her mum Dolly participate, matters take a darker turn when a dead body is found. And that won’t be the first.
This is a cozy mystery with a conscience. The author’s knowledge and love for the area of Whitstable and the Downs comes through clearly and the topical subject of the ever increasing need for more homes but being affordable for the locals and built sensitively without spoiling the natural beauty of the surrounding area is prevalent.
Pearl is a conflicted character – as a native to the area, her father was a Whitstable fisherman, she understands the locals dislike of what they call the DFLs – ‘the Down from Londoners’ but as her DCI boyfriend is himself from London, as well as being in the police, she finds herself at times facing the brunt of people’s distrust. However, with the body count rising, and with her inquisitive and at times, impulsive, nature, she can’t help getting involved, even if it means putting herself in situations where she shouldn’t!
It is not easy jumping into a series part way through where the characters are established however in this case I didn’t really feel disadvantaged by not having read the previous stories and I was still able to enjoy it even without the character development. I’m certainly now keen to see how the series started and get to know Pearl from the beginning.
This is an entertaining story, with a strong and sympathetic character in Pearl at its centre, a sense of community spirit (despite the murders!), delicious sounding food, and a wonderful sense of place. If you want a lighter crime read, then this is recommended.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Wassmer was born in the East End of London, studied at Kingston University and had a variety of different jobs before she finally settled down to become a professional television drama writer.
She worked on several TV series, including ITV’s London’s Burning, C5’s Family Affairs and the popular BBC soap, EastEnders, which she wrote for almost 20 years.
In 2010, her autobiography More Than Just Coincidence was published by Harper Collins/True. The book entered the Sunday Times Best Selling Non Fiction Top Twenty and went on to become Mumsnet Book of the Year.
In 2015, Julie’s debut crime novel, The Whitstable Pearl Mystery, was published by award-winning publisher, Little, Brown Book Group. Six other books have since followed in the series with more on the way, and the television rights to the series have been optioned by the TV production company, Buccaneer, the makers of Marcella, starring Anna Friel.
Julie moved to Whitstable twenty years ago where she shares a home with her husband, Kas, and three cats, Charlie, Lily and Maisie. She also spends a great deal of time campaigning on environmental issues.
Murder on the Downs is the seventh book in the Whitstable Pearl Mystery series.