Death in Cold Waters, Death at Cherry Tree Manor, Death at Valley View Cottage & Death in Lachmore Wood, Tannis Laidlaw

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Before we get started here, a bit of housekeeping. Because the covers on the versions of the 4 books in the Madeleine Brooks series I received caused a bit of confusion on my part, the order is:


Reading this series in order, Madeleine Brooks goes from being a married Senior Probation Officer with a pain in the rear boss, a teenage daughter, and an ungrateful husband who turns out to be a philandering bastard into the bargain; to a real-estate agent in rural England, with a fresh beginning and an uncanny ability to discover mysteries at every new listing.

In the first book - DEATH IN COLD WATERS - there is a lot of build up to the ultimate change in career that's the main focus in the other three (this is most definitely a series that needs to be read in order). The case at the heart of this book is that of a long-term probationer who has been returned to prison on suspicion of murdering a child. Despite there being a lot of similarities between the new accusations, and the crime that sent him to prison in the first place, Maddie's not convinced, and a work suspension by a revengeful and idiot boss, means that she's got the time and energy she needs to find out what happened in the earlier case, and why her client's been accused again. Heaps of set up here for the ongoing series, lots of personal as well as professional angst but definitely one for fans of the mildly annoyed, very put upon, style of female amateur investigator (although to be honest why she tolerated as much as she did without going postal on at least the ex-husband's derriere I'll never understand).

Getting into the second book in the series, DEATH AT CHERRY TREE MANOR, you get a real feel for the character Madeleine Brooks, who is one of those very chatty, middle-aged-woman-whose-husband-has-turned-out-to-be-a-bastard types, with the styling being on the cosy side. In this outing, Maddie has left the aforementioned husband, and her job, and started up as a real estate agent in the English country side. An interesting idea here, with a grand old house intended for sale, only the owner is an elderly woman who just vanished one night. The seller is also the believed inheritor of the property, which means not just prepping and selling, but establishing the heir's right to sell - which leads to investigating his great-aunt's disappearance. Along with the trials of establishing yourself as a newly separated woman (with a drain on resources ex-husband) there's a LOT of real-estate chat in this one. Perhaps a bit too much because I kept struggling to keep track of the alleged victim, and where we were all heading. Having said that, it's very much in the cosy style as already mentioned, and could very well be just the ticket for fans of that sub-genre.

The third book, DEATH AT VALLEY VIEW COTTAGE, sees Maddie more established as a successful real-estate agent, officially an ex-wife, although her latest listing comes via a recommendation from her ex-husband. There's something very suspicious about the owner of this recently renovated cottage though, and Maddie's left wondering what exactly her ex is up to as well as the owner. Nothing compared to what happens when a body is found in a shallow grave at the cottage. Still hefty amounts of real-estate chatter, but you can see very clearly now where this series is heading, and how Maddie is growing into her new life.

The fourth book is DEATH IN LACHMORE WOOD. In this outing things have gotten very messy, with three deaths, and a childhood friend in shock and struggling. Peggy Fox has just lost her daughter and son-in-law in a car accident, leaving her with custody of her four-year-old grandson, sole survivor of the crash. Days later her ex-husband dies of a drug overdose, whilst her grandson's paternal grandfather, a very wealthy, abrupt almost rude sort of a man, offers to buy a house with garden for Peggy to raise young Leo in. When the police decide that Peggy's ex-husband was actually murdered, things get even more complicated, and Maddie goes from real-estate agent, and friend, to investigator. This outing had a really interesting plot idea at the core of it, complicated without being overly complex, tangled and very believable. Perhaps because there was much to be considered in the plot, the real-estate info dump took a backseat, and the balance of this novel seemed to work a lot better than the middle two.

Madeleine Brooks is a character that's going to appeal to fans of cosy mysteries with a bit of bite, and a leaning towards older women back out there, re-establishing their lives after a marriage breakdown. There is now a fifth book in the series as well - DEATH AT THE OLDE WOODLEY GRANGE, so if you like this series, you've got quite a few books to be getting on with.


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The first book in the new Madeleine Brooks Mystery series!

Madeleine Brooks, Senior Probation Officer, is having problems at work with a boss who is threatened by Maddie’s competence. And now one of her long-term probation clients has been returned to prison on suspicion of murdering a child, the details of which have strong similarities with his original crime. Maddie doesn’t believe it and worries the police are not looking for anyone else.

When Maddie is suspended by her revengeful boss, she finds herself with time and energies she can put to good use. What if her client was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted years ago, just as he has always maintained? This would have implications about the present murder. When Maddie’s teenaged daughter becomes involved, things spiral down.

Has Maddie compromised her own family?

A compulsive page-turner, Death in Cold Waters is a murder mystery in the grand British classical mystery tradition.  Read it now to see how a new heroine’s tenacious determination to unearth the truth conflicts with a murderer’s devious and dangerous intrigue.

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A vacant manor-house.

A missing owner.
A potential heir.
And a freshly-minted estate agent.

Madeleine Brooks is learning on the job. What she doesn’t need is a grouchy seller. What’s worse, he doesn’t yet own the grand manor but hopes to inherit it. With a failed marriage and bills to pay, Maddie needs this listing. She has to establish the heir’s right to sell. And that means finding his great-aunt Beryl, the lawful owner, dead or alive.


Death at Cherry Tree Manor catapults Maddie into the role of an amateur detective in an Oxfordshire village full of past histories and deep secrets.

Love Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries? Cosy crime novels?  Stories set in an English village? Then get your copy of Death at Cherry Tree Manor now! Grab a cup of coffee and find out whodunit....

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Meet Madeleine Brooks. Ex-probation officer. Ex-wife.

Finally free of her failed marriage, Maddie has transformed herself into a successful estate agent in her delightful but not-so-sleepy English village in Oxfordshire.

Maddie’s most recent listing is a renovated cottage at the edge of the Chiltern Hills, recommended by her ex-husband, Wayne. Valley View Cottage promises to be an easy sale, but Maddie is completely unaware of its recent and sinister past. Unaware of being manipulated.

After a dramatic first encounter with David Sparling, the owner of Valley View Cottage, Maddie starts to feel uneasy about her latest client. Something about him doesn’t quite add up and David’s eagerness to sell the cottage starts to feel suspicious.

Why did Wayne recommend David to Maddie’s agency? Does he know something Maddie doesn’t?

When a body is discovered in a shallow grave at Valley View, Maddie finds herself catapulted into a web of lies.

Worse still, she quickly discovers this murder has tentacles that reach deep into her own family…

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Book 4 in the Madeleine Brooks Mystery Series

Three deaths.

A grieving family.

Sinister secrets that threaten to unravel it all…

Peggy Fox, childhood friend of Madeleine Brooks, is in shock. She has just lost her daughter and son-in-law in a horrific car accident and – days later – her ex-husband to a drug overdose. Despite her trauma, Peggy must maintain control; she has custody of four-year-old Leo Worthington, her grandson and the sole survivor of the crash.

Then the wealthy James Worthington, Leo’s paternal grandfather, offers to buy them a house with a garden and Peggy dares to believe that things are taking a turn for the better.

But when the police decide that Peggy’s ex-husband was murdered, her world turns upside down once more.

Meanwhile, Madeleine finds herself entangled in every aspect of Peggy’s tragedy as she comforts her friend and endeavours to support her. But everything smells too strongly of coincidence for Maddie’s liking. Compelled to investigate, she discovers an array of confusing hints and old secrets that start to form a dangerous picture.

Is a sinister game being played out?

And is somebody treating Maddie as a pawn?

If so, they don’t know Madeleine Brooks. 

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