When a man is found with his brains blown out in a woodland clearing, it looks like an open-and-shut case of suicide.
But handsome charmer Carl Finch had a dark and chequered history… and it’s not long before the police identify that there is much more to his death than meets the eye.
Rooted in Evil is the fifth intriguing murder mystery in Ann Granger’s immaculately plotted and atmospheric Inspector Jess Campbell and Superintendent Ian Carter detective series set in the picturesque Cotswold village of Weston Saint Ambrose.
For those new to these delightful mysteries from one of the nation’s best-loved crime writers, think of ITV’s Midsomer Murders but without the hammy horror and unfeasibly high body count… then add a cast of cleverly imagined, authentic characters and a large helping of super sleuthing.
In this new trip to the Oxfordshire countryside, we find top detective duo Campbell and Carter digging deep into a troubled family and the local community to unearth the secrets and resentments that have been simmering beneath the surface.
When police pathologist Tom Palmer stumbles across the body of Carl Finch whilst walking in Crooked Man Wood, it sets off an extensive investigation because it is quickly established that Finch could not have killed himself.
The stories of local people who were near the woods at the time of Carl’s death just don’t seem to add up and when Superintendent Ian Carter and Inspector Jess Campbell start probing, it becomes clear that Carl had ruffled more than a few feathers in this close-knit community.
Carl’s shady wheeling and dealing had left him constantly in financial trouble. He had always believed his wealthy stepfather would bail him out but when the old man died, he left Carl with just ‘a few measly thousand.’
The inheritance was left instead to his stepsister Hattie who has been bailing him out of his financial troubles – much against her husband Guy Kingsley’s wishes – but, with his money worries still mounting, Carl had become a desperate man.
Guy, another man full of schemes and ‘confident of elusive riches,’ had never liked Carl and wanted his wife’s inheritance for his own use, so Hattie had agreed to meet Carl in secret to discuss his predicament.
But, as she confesses secretly to her best friend Tessa after fleeing back home, what she never expected when she arrived at their meeting point in Crooked Man Wood was to find Carl’s dead body…
Ann Granger’s mysteries have become must reading for crime fans, seduced by her gift for exquisitely detailed characterisation, good, solid detective work, intelligent plotting and the authentic evocation of the captivating Cotswold landscape.
Packed with unexpected revelations and some acutely observed tensions among Finch’s family and acquaintances as the truth is slowly revealed, Granger’s book has plenty of surprises along the way to keep her readers gripped.
Traditional crime fiction with a contemporary appeal…
(Headline, hardback, £19.99)