A Crowded Coffin

A Crowded Coffin is published by Robert Hale Publishers. This is the second book in my series of contemporary cosy mysteries. This series features recently-retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley and her clergyman cousin, Canon Sam Hathaway in their new adventure.

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Story Outline

It’s late summer in Hampshire and former headmistress, Harriet Quigley, is enjoying life. Her cousin Sam is moving next-door and the only cloud on the horizon is village gossip about a man who disappeared months earlier, along with a more recent near-fatal accident.

Suddenly it’s all going pear-shaped – and sensible, practical Harriet has only herself to blame. Sam has warned her not to play at being Miss Marple but despite her cousin’s strictures Harriet is suspicious about several newcomers and she’s been asking discreet questions. There’s an enigmatic artist; a good-looking vicar; a handsome Texan; a millionaire orchid-fancier; and Elvis the plumber. To cap it all someone’s seen the family ghost and only her young cousin Edith takes Harriet’s anxieties seriously. With a sudden death in Winchester Cathedral; a treasure hunt that attracts unwelcome attention; and history that looms uncomfortably close, Harriet finds herself trapped somewhere very nasty – and she’s not alone.

What do other people think of it ?

Latest reviews of A Crowded Coffin.

A real whodunit in an English village with some marvellous characters — I love it. Suspicious goings on at night, the rumour of long buried treasure, all wrapped up with the history of Locksley Farm House. Soon Harriet is in a tight spot, and she’s not alone! Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Lizzie Hayes, ‘Mystery People’ magazine

I have not read Nicola Slade before so I wasn’t sure what I was in for. This is a cozy lighthearted tale of strange doings in the village of Locksley. A man has a couple of pints in the pub then disappears, old Walter is the victim of a hit and run and someone is secretly digging on the site of an old roman villa. Harriet and her cohorts take an interest and inevitably end up in trouble.

The characters are engaging and well drawn, The plot is well thought out if a trifle silly and it is extremely well written so if you want to escape for a few hours this will suit you nicely.

Reviewer: Elaine Byrne on Amazon.co.uk

Walter Attlin - a distant relative of Harriet Quigley’s - is knocked into a ditch by a car which doesn’t stop. Fortunately he is rescued and treated in hospital for minor injuries. But what did he see in the Burial Field which had attracted his attention just before the accident?

Harriet is puzzled and not a little disturbed by what she feels is not an accident. Edith - Walter’s granddaughter - has returned home to find a lodger staying with her grandparents. She feels a little suspicious about him bit isn’t sure why. Then there’s the vicar who seems to have an unhealthy interest in Roman remains and an American who may or may not be prospecting for oil.

Before all mysteries are solved and a missing person located, Harriet Quigley, retired headmistress and her beloved cousin Sam Hathaway, will find themselves in danger. Can they find out what is going on and expose the villains before time runs out for everyone? This interesting and well written mystery has an interesting background of history and archaeology. The ending is tense and exciting and it is far from clear for quite a while whether the mystery will be solved.

This is the second book featuring Harriet Quigley and I shall be interested to read future books in the series. If you enjoy the cosy crime/mystery genre then you will enjoy this book.

Review by “Damaskcat” on Amazon.co.uk

4.0 out of 5 stars Miss Quigley: super sleuth., 5 Feb 2013

The moment you open the pages of “A Crowded Coffin” you know you’re in for a treat. Even the list of characters tells you that the author’s tongue is firmly in her cheek. But this novel is not a bit of comic fluff. No indeed. It’s a cleverly thought out and plotted murder mystery with enough tension and fear to unsettle the mind but never enough to put off those who prefer their crime fiction not to leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

We first met Harriet Quigley, and her best friend and cousin Canon Sam Hathaway, in “Murder Fortissimo”. Once again she is embroiled in a mesh of intrigue which before too long puts the indomitable ex-headmistress in extreme danger. Life in the country, as “Midsomer Murders” tells us, is a hotbed of both humour, gossip and unpleasantness. Although she has promised Sam not to turn into a latter-day Miss Marple, her sharp and enquiring mind and her loyalty to others leads her to do just that. And the crimes she uncovers are not as arcane as those investigated by D I Barnaby, but wholly and nastily plausible.

“A Crowded Coffin” is a novel to curl up with beside the fire as winter winds howl outside your door. It kept me guessing as well as smiling in equal measure. There’s a touch of Harriet Quigley in Nicky Slade, especially her understanding of the way the world works, her learning and her scope of interest, all of which she tempers with good-humour and fairness. Long may she sleuth in spite of what Sam says. She is only just getting into her stride. More please.

Reviewer: S. Zigmond (Yorkshire, England)

It was wonderful to see the return of the lead characters from Nicola Slade’s earlier book Murder Fortissimo, in this new murder mystery. I found this book totally gripping and an education as well! I learnt all sorts of new information, about Roman ruins, King Alfred and Art History! Harriet Quigley is back with her cousin Sam Hathaway attempting to uncover several mysterious goings on in the village of Locksley. There are a variety of new and interesting characters to add to the drama, all superbly introduced throughout the intriguing plot.

I definitely recommend A Crowded Coffin, it keeps you in suspense right until the end, you will not be disappointed!

Reviewer: Jane Austen Fan on Amazon.co.uk

When I open a book by Nicola Slade I am instantly enchanted, because she includes a Dramatis Personae with, in the proper manner, a few well-chosen words of description for each person. At the foot there’s a list of minor characters; here, assorted cats, dogs, art historians, ghosts and villagers. You know you’re in good hands with a book that starts thus, don’t you!

A Crowded Coffin is a sequel to Murder Fortissimo which I reviewed enthusiastically a year ago. I note that then I approved of Harriet Quigley, retired headmistress, for her cautious approach to investigation; hmm, perhaps that was her convalescent status in the first book, because here she’s a good deal more gung-ho. Okay, she always convinces herself there’s a good reason not to wait but, like her cousin Sam, I keep wanting to tell her to be more careful! And that a young artist who’s recovering from a long period of privation ought to be tucked up in bed at night, and not recruited to go hunting criminals in the dark with women who ought to know better! Maybe Sam is right and Harriet is just a bit too keen on becoming the Miss Marple of Locksley.

Events here are very much focused on Harriet and her family. Sam is moving in next door, something they both anticipate with pleasure. Meanwhile another cousin, Walter Attlin, has had a accident in which he was knocked down by a car. His grand-daughter Edith comes rushing home from the States where she’s been working for several years, full of concern and determined to stay and look after her grandparents. She finds Walter’s making a good recovery, except for insisting that someone did it on purpose. There are new people sharing her family home now, too: Karen the housekeeper and her Polish husband, and Rory Attlin, an artist who seems to be a hitherto unheard-of relation.

Edith and Harriet are both very concerned about the apparent attack on Walter, although he now refuses to say any more about it. Harriet is also curious about a young archivist who disappeared after visiting the local pub, and then there are the figures spotted moving around after dark near the Attlins’ farm. There are newcomers to the village too -- could one of them be responsible for Walter's "accident"? There do seem to be a number of suspiciously dented cars around …

Not listed in the Dramatis Personae is the Attlin family’s farmhouse, although you feel it should be there; once known as the Angel House, Locksley Farm Place dates back centuries, perhaps to a Roman villa on the same site. The author conveys the sense of the house's age and antiquity seamlessly, as Rory learns its history and explores its nooks and crannies, and the reader is left with an impression of great solidity and warmth which permeates the whole book, transforming it from just another murder-mystery into an intimate experience. Harriet Quigley is rapidly joining Sheila Malory as an old-friend-of-the-family who just happens to get involved in mysteries, and I look forward to hearing about her further exploits!

Reviewer: the respected book blogger Geranium Cat

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