Vintage Romance, March 2008
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith
The fact that Laura Clayton is about to die comes as no surprise – in fact
we are told that it will happen right from the beginning of LADIES OF
CLASS. The reason for her death, however, is not clear. Laura has lived in
the English village of Burshill for thirty years. Widowed for five years,
she is a pillar of the community, highly regarded by the vicar and his
wife, and an old friend of the Chief Constable. She shouldn’t have had an
enemy in the world, but her death proves that she did. When two more women
die, both of whom knew Laura, then the police need to look for more links.
Newly promoted Detective Chief Inspector Richard Hayward broke his leg,
not in the course of his duties, but by slipping on a patch of ice. So his
mother Ella is helping him move into his new house at Burshill. The Chief
Constable requests that Richard make an early return to work to take on
the Laura Clayton case. Richard’s New Zealand-born wife Kate has gone home
to visit her sick father and Ella becomes his sounding board in an
increasingly complex and tricky case.
LADIES OF CLASS is written very much in the style of the village cosy,
with many of the hallmarks of Golden Age writing. Despite the fact that
three deaths occur in quick succession, they are presented in that
peculiarly flat, almost bloodless, style characteristic of the period.
Dialogue dominates the structure of the novel, and the author tends to
underline the importance of certain events and statements, presumably to
ensure that we don’t miss their significance.
For me there were things that didn’t quite work given the period of the
setting, which I thought was the late 1960s. Long distance telephone calls
have to be booked, in keeping with the times, while long distance
aeroplane journeys seem to be accomplished in very short time. The
author’s attempt to render cockney speech verbatim was just a little
irritating too, but she attempted it, thankfully, with just one character.
Despite these minor annoyances, the plot is well woven, the characters
carefully drawn, and there was just enough to trouble “the little grey
cells.” There are plenty of readers who will find this a satisfying read.
The first chapter of LADIES OF CLASS can be read online at
Marjorie Owen died at the age of 93, leaving four handwritten books and
over fifty short stories. She wrote for her own pleasure and never had any
of her work published. Her daughter Dee Owen is attempting to transcribe
all her works and to eventually get them published.
March 2008 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem
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