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Fans of cozy mysteries will enjoy Murder at the Altar, by Veronica Heley. The story actually begins with the climactic moment when the murderer is advancing towards Ellie. Suddenly: “Too late… The murderer took a step forward.” (p. 1)
Back in time we go. Newly widowed Ellie Quicke is finding life sad, confusing and almost more than she can bear. For years, she waited on her husband and his elderly aunt, meekly accepting their dictates and their opinion that she was unfit for any other role. With Frank’s death, Ellie is forced to find her own place in the world. Her grief-fogged existence is besieged with greedy relatives and needy neighbors. Ellie sees herself as unable to cope, but the reader is shown a different view. Whether it is as a surrogate mother for lonely boy, or marriage counselor to an abused spouse, it is Ellie to whom villagers turn to for help.
A body is found in front of the altar of the Parish next door. When the police suspect her missing neighbor, Ellie decides if she doesn’t find the truth for herself, no one will. The mystery behind the murder is entertaining, but the real challenge is Ellie’s awakening to her own potential. The characters are very British and a cup of tea is the panacea of choice. (If that doesn’t work, there is always sherry.) Readers will cheer the widow on as she confronts a daughter who would happily commit elder abuse if Ellie would just lie down and take it, and deals with an in-law who may be elderly, but is certainly not as needy as she would like everyone to believe. Ellie’s attempts to master her husband’s computer and a rather tipsy first driving lesson provide some much needed humor.
I am looking forward to reading more of this series.