The Poison Pen: A Richard Hayward Mystery by Marjorie Owen

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The Poison Pen: A Richard Hayward Mystery by Marjorie Owen
Publisher: Vinspire Publishing
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (211 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Cyclamen

There’s never a dull moment for the employees of Walls Department Store in the small town of Burshill, England. Detective Chief Inspector Richard Hayward and his wife Kate just returned from a second honeymoon in Paris, discovers that life is not going to be as quiet and easy at the station as he would like. Once again, DCI Hayward’s expertise is called upon to solve the most heinous crimes committed in the once sleepy little town.

Who would believe what was happening behind the doors of the old fashioned, hundred year old store. Innocent shoppers have no clue, as they browse and buy, of the murderous intent that exists in some of the staff. Yet the people in the store and town are soon to discover the extraordinary lengths those who have secrets will go to hide them.

When John Berwick, the manager of Wall’s Department Store in Burgess Hill, England, is found murdered, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Hayward finds himself in a world with which he has no familiarity. He has just returned from a wonderful Paris vacation with his pregnant wife and now he has to find the murderer of a man who was universally hated. At first he is upset that no one seems to care that Berwick is dead. “His own happiness was so great, it seemed unjust that another man should have died without inspiring any regret in a living soul. For some obscure reason, it made him all the more determined to get to the bottom of this affair.” But the further he gets in the case, the more he comes to realize that the man was just as horrible as everyone said. Nevertheless, Hayward maintains that no one should die such a horrible death, from arsenic poisoning.

Hayward is an excellent detective who uses unorthodox results with great effectiveness. His character, as well as those of his sergeant, Jim Findon, and his wife, Kate Hayward, and other supporting characters are well-crafted and very believable. The pacing of the novel is excellent, with suspense building throughout. The clues were all there and the author has played fair with her readers, but I didn’t guess the identity of the murderer until nearly the end.

No dates are given in the novel, and it wasn’t until I read the about the author at the end of the book that I realized the novel was written a number of years ago. It has been published posthumously, and I am very glad that it has been. It feels very much like an Agatha Christie cozy mystery and in fact the author was just twenty years younger than Christie. This goes a long way towards explaining Hayward’s reluctance to have his pregnant wife drive, for instance. Realizing that the novel is probably set in the 1950’s makes it truly authentic and it was very enjoyable to be transported back to an earlier era.

Readers of the cozy mystery are sure to enjoy this delightful murder mystery filled with action as well as humor.

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