Friday, 20 January 2017

Book Review: THE BODY ON THE DOORSTEP BY A.J. MACKENZIE (Historical Mystery)

A Romney Marsh Mystery
Published by Zaffre 21 April 2016

Kent, 1796. Smugglers’ boats bring their illicit cargoes of brandy and tobacco from France to land on the beaches of the Channel coast.
Shocked to discover a dying man on his doorstep - and lucky to avoid a bullet himself – our alcoholic Reverend Hardcastle, with a colourful past, finds himself entrusted with the victim's cryptic last words.
Who is the young man? Where did he come from, and who killed him? Why, five minutes later, was a Customs officer shot and killed out on the Marsh? And who are the mysterious group of smugglers known as the Twelve Apostles and why is the leader of the local Customs service so reluctant to investigate?
Ably assisted by the ingenious Mrs Chaytor, Reverend Hardcastle sets out to solve the mystery for himself. But smugglers are not the only ones to lurk off the Kent coast, and the more he discovers, the more he realises he might have bitten off more than he can chew.

The Body on the Doorstep is the first Romney Marsh mystery and what a clever and entertaining mystery it was!

Reverend Hardcastle, the rector of a small village in Kent, enjoys a claret and a port and a brandy and the villagers look upon him as a harmless, alcoholic idiot. While most of them are involved in smuggling in some way he turns a blind eye and, in appreciation of his discretion, is often rewarded with a bottle of brandy on his doorstep.

But what he found on his doorstep one evening was not his favourite brand of brandy, it was the bloody body of a young man who's dying words are told to the reverend.

This starts Hardcastle on a quest to discover who he was and why he was killed. While out walking he meets a widow, Mrs Chaytor, who is also curious to know some answers and, together they form an unlikely partnership, which I thought worked really well in the story. The villagers would tell things to her that they wouldn't tell Hardcastle and vice versa.

This was a complex, but not complicated, story about smugglers, treason, traitors and spies ........ in a village fearful that the French would invade the country at any time.

Full of colourful characters, my favourite of whom was the Reverend Hardcastle who was a whole lot cleverer than his villagers thought he was; he spoke plainly, offending most people apart from the fascinating Amelia Chaytor who knew her own mind.

A well plotted, well written story that I very much enjoyed and eagerly look forward to the further adventures of Hardcastle and Chaytor!

At the beginning of the book there is a map of the area featured in the story - I could follow the characters and picture where they were which made it all the more enjoyable - I do love a map!

Not the actual map in the book

Huge thanks to Emily Burns at publishers Bonnier Zaffre for giving me the opportunity to read this novel.

About the Authors

A.J. MacKenzie is the pseudonym of Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel, a collaborative Anglo-Canadian husband-and-wife duo. Between them they have written more than twenty non-fiction and academic titles, with specialisms including management, medieval economic history and medieval warfare.
THE BODY ON THE DOORSTEP is their first novel.

Available from Amazon UK - Amazon US - Book Depository

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