by Sharon Tucker
How better to mark St. Valentine’s Day than savoring the irony of perpetrating a murder on this particular holiday celebrating love and lover! Admittedly—not to everyone’s taste, as it is a rather non-traditional way to celebrate any holiday. Whether it is death by chocolate, death by stalker valentine, or malice by florist, a cynical reader might revel in the deliciousness of reading The Saint Valentine’s Day Murders (2007) by Ruth Dudley Edwards, The Coniston Case (2016) by Rebecca Tope, or Valentine (2018) by Tom Savage.
In The Saint Valentine’s Day Murder, irony is most definitely the underlying theme in this second of Ruth Dudley Edwards’ Robert Amiss mysteries having much to do with those who people the halls of power in the British civil service. Amiss, as an up and coming civil servant, unwillingly takes a managerial position in the British Conservation Corporation, an environmental protection agency. We learn immediately that this is not where he would like to be on his career path. He would have much preferred a position within a proper industry to gain experience he could use to take up a better post at Whitehall. Two months later, still dazed by his whirlwind training and with the briefest of introductions under his belt to his non-traditional co-workers, the murders begin. Fortunately, Amis can team up with Scotland Yard Superintendent Jim Milton to solve the mysteries since his wry sense of humor isn’t quite enough to solve this case.
England’s Lake District is a fabulous setting for a Valentine mystery. Of all the storied landscapes in England, the Lake District may actually be the most beautiful of them all. The Coniston Case, third in Rebecca Tope’s series named after the area, finds Persimmon Brown, local florist gearing up for one of her busiest times of year, enjoying delivering her arrangements in person because receiving flowers is a joy in itself. Imagine her surprise when more than one of her deliveries meets with bafflement, derision, or worse. Someone is sending Persimmon Petals’ flowers to mark less than auspicious occasions or using them to threaten. What follows is the disappearance of not one but two women known to Persimmon, both under suspicious circumstances. As the cases unfold if the reader is reminded of the 2004-2007 Granada television series Rosemary and Thyme, also to do with flowers, gardening, and mystery-solving, it would be no small wonder. Rebecca Tope wrote for it.
Many of us dream of having an apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village, and Jillian Talbot, Tom Savage’s heroine in Valentine, has one. She also has to her credit a successful series of suspense novels in print and an up and coming young artist who loves her. What she also has, but is increasing terrified by, is a collection of threatening, bizarre valentine cards, and phone messages. We readers learn through a series of flashbacks that the sender has been hurt and humiliated by a particular group of women in his past, but we don’t know where our Jillian fits into picture. However, over the following two weeks we learn the strange truth.
Therefore, if you find the pink teddy bears, single red roses, and boxes of chocolate a little cloying these days, murder for Valentine’s Day may become a tradition to look forward to every year. It certainly has its virtues, does it not?
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