The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

Inspired by the golden age of crime writers, The Postscript Murders is an engaging, gently-paced murder mystery.  It’s a celebration of the crime-thriller genre that quietly invites the reader into the heart of the investigation. 

A light-hearted, life-affirming celebration of crime fiction and the colourful characters that create it… such witty and charming entertainment.’
The Times

what it says on the cover …

PS: Thanks for the murders.

The death of a ninety-year-old woman with a heart condition should absolutely not be suspicious. DS Harbinder Kaur certainly sees nothing to concern her in carer Natalka’s account of Peggy Smith’s death. 
But when Natalka reveals that Peggy lied about her heart condition and that she had been sure someone was following her…
And that Peggy Smith had been a ‘murder consultant’ who plotted deaths for authors, and knew more about murder than anyone has any right to…
And when clearing out Peggy’s flat ends in Natalka being held at gunpoint by a masked figure…
Well then DS Harbinder Kaur thinks that maybe there is no such thing as an unsuspicious death after all.

PS: Trust no one.

The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

PUBLISHED: 2nd March 2021
SHELF: crime | mystery
AUTHOR: Elly Griffiths
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
FORMATS: Hardback | Audiobook | Kindle

‘I heard it on the Today programme. Well it’s a very Radio 4 kind of murder.
Crime writer shot dead.

my review

The Postscript Murders has been in print in the UK since autumn 2020, and it’s proven so popular that the rights to print have been snapped up by an American publishing house.  I was delighted to be given a complimentary e-copy of the book by the US publishers through NetGalley, which has been given a splendidly vintage cover design that I’m fairly sure a certain Ms Christie would’ve been delighted with.

I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a long time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  This is an easy-reading murder mystery set in the present day, but with plenty of timeless references to the crime writers of the golden age.  In fact, I’d say it is a celebration of my favourite crime and murder-mystery genres.

The Postscript Murders opens to a prologue detailing Margaret ‘Peggy’ Smith’s last day on this earth.  At a very impressive ninety years old, it would be fair to say this lady has a spirited nature that I immediately liked … what a shame we weren’t able to get to know her in person.  Thankfully, Peggy has a devoted group of close friends who are convinced there’s more to Peggy’s death than meets the eye, and through whom we get to know this sparky lady much better as the book progresses.

First on the scene is Natalka; Peggy’s straight-talking and rather beautiful Ukrainian carer whose suspicions are raised by Peggy’s abundant collection of murder novels, and a rather intriguing business card that mysteriously pitches Peggy as a ‘murder consultant’.  Certain there’s something else going on here, Natalka heads to the police station.  Yes, her suspicions don’t really overwhelm me as being convincing, but Natalka is a pretty persuasive character, and it’s not too long before she’s aroused DS Harbinder Kaur’s curiosity.

Harbinder is a great character, and my favourite in the book.  Like Natalka, she’s direct and no nonsense, but she brings a warmth and dry humour to the book that I found really engaging. She’s a talented detective who reads people and situations very well, and seems to have a remarkably good-natured resignation of the casual racism she encounters on this case.  Living at home with her parents, she’s the envy of her ‘work husband’, DS Neil Winston for the array of delicious Indian meals her mother cooks, but her living arrangements soon bring the danger too close to home.

And then there’s Benedict and Edwin; two charming gentlemen who Natalka enlists to her eclectic group of armchair investigators.  Dapper octogenarian Edwin was Peggy’s neighbour at Seaview Court retirement flats, whilst ex-monk Benedict runs the superb coffee shack Peggy frequented.  So, whilst DS Kaur pursues the official investigation, the trio embark on a rather haphazard, but fruitful, spot of amateur sleuthing.  Twice they find themselves staring down the wrong end of a gun, but it doesn’t stop them following their hunches from the sleepy seaside town of Shoreham to the high-profile crime writers’ festival in Aberdeen. But as the body count starts to rise, so too do the questions.

Who are these two strange men who keep popping up unexpectedly in their white Ford Fiesta?  Peggy first spotted them on the morning of her untimely demise, and not long afterwards they turn up on Natalka’s doorstep.  What does a masked gun-wielding baddie want with that particular 1930s murder novel? Who’s sending the ominously threatening postcards to authors; Peggy received one, and so did three crime writers, two of whom have also been murdered?  And why are the murders so different – shootings and poisonings – could it be the killer isn’t acting alone?

I absolutely loved the author’s use of murder mystery novels to influence and shape this engaging story.  In doing so, iconic names such as Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Ian Rankin, and Dorothy Sayers all play small cameo roles in the story, either in person or posthumously through their books.  Peggy’s long lasting love of crime novels runs rather deeper than her friends first thought, and it soon becomes clear that these books are at the heart of the case; they hold the clues, raise questions, and could quite possibly provide the motive and the solution.

The Postscript Murders was a charmingly easy read, with just enough wry humour (thanks to DS Kaur) to give the book a distinctive, comfortable character. The chapters switch between the point-of-view of Natalka, Harbinder, Edwin, and Benedict which keeps the perspective fresh and interesting.  This is what I would call a cosy crime book (I had to smile when I saw this term referenced in the book itself!).  It’s a gently-paced, frequently twisting plot that makes up for its lack of gasp-out-loud gore with a charming sense of being part of the investigation. 

Fans of some of the best-loved television dramas – Midsomer Murders, New Tricks, Death In Paradise – will hugely enjoy this book.

my rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you to the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and NetGalley for granting me this advance copy of The Postscript Murders in return for an honest review.

elly griffiths

Elly Griffiths was born in London in 1963, and her family moved to Brighton when she was five. She loved Brighton and still does – the town, the surrounding countryside and, most of all, the sea.  She wrote her first book when she was a 11, a murder mystery set in Rottingdean, near the village where she still lives. 

Elly did all the right things to become a writer: she read English at King’s College London and, after graduating, worked in a library, for a magazine, and then as a publicity assistant at HarperCollins.

Christened Domenica de Rosa, Elly has written four novels under that name, the first of which, The Italian Quarter, was published in 1998.  Three other books have since followed, all about Italy, families and identity.

Whilst on holiday in Norfolk,  an off-the-cuff comment by her archaeologist husband,  Andy, inspired an exciting new literary direction.  Neither land nor sea, neither life nor death.  With these words the entire plot of The Crossing Places was, and so too was Dr Ruth Galloway. Elly didn’t think that this new book was significantly different from her ‘Italy’ books but, when she read it, her agent said, ‘This is crime. You need a crime name.’  And that’s when Elly Griffiths was born.

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