Thea Osborne and her faithful spaniel, Hepzie, have taken on a house-sitting assignment in the charming Cotswold village of Temple Guiting. But as always, an idyllic village can harbour a disquieting number of secrets and when a skeleton is discovered at the roots of an old beech tree, Thea is grateful for the presence of her partner DS Phil Hollis. There is no concrete evidence as to who the bones belonged to although it isn't long before theories and rumours abound. Thea soon finds herself drawn into a murder investigation - perhaps the countryside isn't that quiet after all.
BLOOD IN THE COTSWOLD is an entry in the (somewhat unimaginatively named, it has to be said) Cotswold Series from British author Rebecca Tope.
Central character Thea Osborne and her dog Hepzie house-sit. They do this quite a bit, and in this book they are in the quiet little village of Temple Guiting. Thea's partner DS Phil Hollis is joining them for a quiet, and hopefully romantic, celebration of their first-year anniversary. Of course nothing goes to plan, and Hollis puts his back out, meaning he's on the spot when an upturned old tree reveals a skeleton.
The discovery of the skeleton leads to a range of different possible identities and some local sleuthing, somewhat outside proper protocol by both Hollis and Thea, albeit with Hollis rather restricted in his movements because of his back.
There's some nice asides throughout this book taking you through some of the history of this village, and there's that light touch - not quite cozy (in the recipe and cat's vein), that you can expect from this type of very British, small town, "Midsomer" style of books.
And that's really the main point of this book - that small village; idyllic looking, murder and mayhem lurking beneath the surface countryside; slightly eccentric characters; with a combination of official and non-official investigators of which there are a lot of excellent examples in British crime fiction.
BLOOD IN THE COTSWOLDS fits right in with that whole sub-genre (whatever it's called). Non-confrontational stories, in this example with an up-to-date mature age relationship, it's not a stretch to imagine that this book (and the series) is just the thing for readers looking for a little romance, a little humour and a touch of murder and mayhem without the overt gore and angst of other forms of crime fiction. Even if you're not a dedicated fan of this style (and goodness knows I normally prefer to dance on the dark side), BLOOD IN THE COTSWOLD was a good, solid and interesting plot, with a believable couple at the centre of the investigation, dedicated but not overly romantic and unrealistic. All in all good fun, light entertainment and a very nice way to spend a cold winter's Sunday.