I’m not sure how Katherine Hayton’s The Three Deaths of Magdalene Lynton ended up on my Kindle. But I gave it a whirl.
It’s a workable murder mystery in which we have two detectives, Ngaire and Deb, possibly meant to be the Cagney & Lacey of Christchurch, New Zealand.
A man walks in off the street and confesses to a forty-years-past murder. He’s got nothing to lose, since cancer has got him licked and he expects to die within weeks.
Who was murdered? A teenage girl. They found her in the slurry pit on a farm compound run by a religious cult.
It might help if you study up on slurry pits before you begin. It’s a British thing, a concrete tank where farmers collect manure, hay and what-not, letting it brew into fertilizer. Farm boys and a sheep or two have met a bad end in these pits, either from drowning in the muck or breathing the gases.
Anyway, in Hayton’s story, we have religious weirdness, complete with a Prophet isolating his flock from that awful world out there. We have a detective trying to prove herself at work, after weeks off for an injury that left knife-long scars and traumatic memories. We have an ambitious lawyer who’ll probably be sleeping on the couch tonight for missing a conference at his daughter’s private school.
And we have a full compliment of characters who look good (or bad), but eventually surprise you with their badness (or goodness), because this is a murder mystery, where faithful fans of the genre enjoy a good game of spotting the clues and guessing the villain before the big reveal at the end.
I don’t know. Mystery authors and TV writers sell us the idea that “things aren’t what they seem.” In their world, it’s the librarian with the lisp that you need to watch out for.
They once had me so convinced that “things aren’t what they seem” that I started dismissing real clues about real people. Like the time one of the sweetest teenagers at church turned up pregnant. I was gobsmacked, but my friends said, “Didn’t you notice this? Didn’t you notice that? If this is going on, you just know that that is going on.” It turns out that things quite often ARE what they seem.
Or maybe reading mysteries would teach me how to catch the clues better.
I’m much better at reading recipes, so here’s what I did in the kitchen this week:
The best way to describe Corny Ham Bundles is that they are similar to a pasty, the meat pie that miners in pack in their lunchpails. (Can’t you just picture that miner, whistling on his way to work. I’m a lucky bloke! I don’t work anywhere near those slurry pits. And I’ve got a great lunch! )
And the weather’s hot, so the melons ought to be good. But just in case they aren’t, the sugary-citrus syrup in Melon and Grape Salad sweetens them up so much, they almost count as dessert.
Not that that stops me from adding a real dessert. You don’t really believe I would eat some fruit and say, “I declare, that’s enough sweets for me,” do you? Of course not. So I made Honey-Lemon Cookies. With frosting.