Crime Fiction Alphabet: B is for Bolitho

B just had to be for Bolitho – it’s such a local name. I live near lands owned by the Bolitho estate, and I was born in the Bolitho Maternity Hospital.

And so for letter B in my Crime Fiction Alphabet I am writing about a local author – Janie Bolitho. She was born a few miles up the coast at Falmouth but she lived for many years, like me, on the Penzance seafront.

Last year I read Snapped in Cornwall, the first of seven mysteries featuring Rose Trevelyan, and I liked it more than enough to seek out the second mystery – Framed in Cornwall.

Rose still lives just a mile away from me, in the fishing port of Newlyn. She’s a photographer, a would-be artist, and a young widow. I could I think Briar and I might bump into rose when we walk along the seafront towards Newlyn. Yes, she’s believable,  and engaging too, so I always wanted to know what would happen to her, what she would find out, and I kept turning the pages.

Rose and Dorothy Pengelly were good friends, and Rose was horrified when she discovered her friend dead in her armchair. A sudden heart attack she thinks, or maybe a stroke. But the police say it was suicide. Rose will not, cannot believe it.

But what else could it be? Who would want to kill a harmless elderly widow?

Dorothy’s home was remote and so she didn’t see too many people.

Her younger son Martin, a simple soul, lived in an old abandoned caravan not far from his mother and visited her often. But her elder son Peter, who had a wife and children, lived not much further away and she hardly ever saw him.

Dorothy usually only ventured out as far as the village shop. The shopkeeper was friendly, but he had been distracted as the woman he lived with, who was the cornerstone of his life was seriously, terminally ill. But if she ever needed to go further she had a good friend and neighbour, Jobber Hicks, who would give her a lift.

A very well drawn, very well balanced cast.

But could one of them have killed Dorothy?

Or could Dorothy’s death have been connected with the man who came to visit her just days before she died?

Rose is determined to find out what really happened and, of course, in time, she uncovers the truth.

Framed in Cornwall is a good, solid traditional mystery. There’s just enough going on to keep it interesting, and the characters, their relationships, their behaviour all rang true. Cornwall and the Cornish captured beautifully.

A few small niggles – some quite unnecessary withholding of information that Rose knew from the reader, and an even more unnecessary woman in peril drama at the end – were more that offset by the things that Janie Bolitho got spot on.

Her plot was very well constructed, but what made it sing was that there was more here than just a mystery. There some intriguing developments in Rose’s life and, maybe best of all, there were well told, and quietly moving, emotional stories.

And all of those strands were balanced quite beautifully.

I’ll definitely pick up the third book in the series, to find out what happens in Rose’s life and to see just how she finds her way into another mystery.

*****

The Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

“Each week, beginning Monday 10 January 2011, you have to write a blog post about crime fiction related to the letter of the week …”

So next week, C is for … ?

16 responses

  1. I devoured all of these last year. I found Rose’s life just as compelling as the mysteries – I think I like crime fiction best when there is life going on as well as crimes…

    • The logic of crime fiction was what drew me in first, but the more i read the more I realise that the best mysteries are those with interesting human stories. Janie Bolitho does characters and there stories very well, and getting my part of Cornwall just right is a lovely bonus.

  2. I love the sound of these books and will certainly be adding Janie Bolitho to my list of authors to read (getting longer by the day!) Looking forward to hearing about more crime fiction – it’s one of my favourite genres, but I am rather a late-comer to the party. For some reason, crime fiction never appealed to me when I was younger. Now, I can’t get enough!

    • My mother steered me towards Agatha Christie when I first moved from the junior to the adult shelves of the library, and I’ve been reading crime fiction ever since. I still like the puzzle but now I realise that it’s characters, their psychology and their emotional stories that make the best crime fiction. People watching you could say!

    • Janie Bolitho’s books seem to have fallen out of print since she died a few years ago. It’s a shame because what she does she does very well.

  3. Jane – What a terrific idea to feature an author who’s from your area. I love the sense of place in the story and in your choice to feature her :-). Time for me to pay a literary visit to Cornwall, methinks.

  4. What I find so intriguing is that you have so many books that take place in or near where you live!! I wish that was the case for me here in Michigan!! This one sounds delightful!

  5. I never read crime fiction before discovering blogs. Now I just love them but they have to be the cozy sort and ones that are a series. Enjoying Ann Cleeves, Louise Penny as well as the older ones Patricia Wentworth and Agatha Christie. Never read any when I was Younger.

  6. I really must get around to this series, but I think the last time I checked Devon libraries didn’t have any. Must check again. Like a previous commenter I also recommend Ann Cleeves – especially her Jimmy Perez books set in the Shetland Isles.

  7. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: January 22, 2011 | Semicolon

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