Tuesday, 12 June 2001

Ann Granger: Beneath These Stones (1999)

Edition: Headline, 1999
Review number: 838

The twelfth Mitchell and Markby mystery is one of the best in the series (though I am perhaps influenced in that opinion by not having read one for some time). In many ways it fits into the standard model of the novels in the series, with Meredith Mitchell becoming involved on the fringes of one of Alan Markby's murder cases, while both of them wonder about where their relationship is heading.

Like Morse's Oxford and Wexford's Kingsmarkham, and other settings of mystery series, Bamford is an exceptionally dangerous place to live, with a high incidence of murder and violent crime. In this case, the victim is a farmer's wife from a smallholding, found on the railway embankment by a gypsy poacher checking his snares. (Danny Smith, by the way, is a character drawn without the prejudice which usually attaches to gypsies and others with unusual lifestyles in this particular genre.)

Sonia Franklin never fit in on the farm; she had come from a yuppy background in London, and life on a working farm wasn't what she expected it to be. She didn't get on with her stepdaughter, Tammy, and she was soon bored, so that she began to have affairs to pass the time. In the end, it doesn't seem terribly surprising that she had been murdered - something common to many murder mystery victims.

The big strength of this novel lies in the characterisation of the stoical twelve year old Tammy; Granger is one of the best writers of the traditional English mystery where it comes to depicting young people. (Think of the truly cringe inspiring efforts of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell as contrast.)

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