eARC Review: Death on a Summer Morning (A Sukey Reynolds Mystery #6) by Betty Rowlands

A handsome house sits proudly next to a luscious lawn, where birds sing in the cherry tree. But on this summer morning, the birds have taken flight and the owner of the house lies too still to be asleep…

Sukey Reynolds is delighted that summer has arrived. Her garden is in glorious form, and the long, warm days give her a chance to enjoy the countryside, and even play a bit of tennis. The only digging she plans to do is in her flowerbeds.

But then Sukey is called to photograph the scene of what appears to be a tragic accident. Arthur Soames, a retired school teacher, fell to his death from the ornate iron staircase above his perfectly manicured lawn. But when the police notify his family, they are adamant that this is no accident…

Is this summer’s day turning out to be curiously chilly?

When Arthur’s daughter won’t leave the police in peace, Sukey reluctantly agrees to help put her mind to rest. As she starts to poke about in the dead man’s past, she realises he was keeping secrets, and several people might well have wanted him dead. But who would resort to murder? Could it have been Arthur’s enchanting fiancée, a sullen ex-student or maybe a nettled neighbour?

An old address written on a small piece of paper is the clue that Sukey needs, but can she convince her police colleagues that this death on a summer morning was no accident and solve this baffling mystery at last?

If you love cozy mysteries by P.D. James, Agatha Christie or Faith Martin, then this addictive novel from the bestselling queen of cozy crime will have you hooked! (Goodreads)

True to its blurb, this is an absolutely gripping cozy mystery and I read this book in just three sittings which is actually a rarity for me.

This is the 6th book in the series and although I haven’t read any of the previous books, I didn’t feel lost while I was reading this. The plot is well-crafted and executed, the characters are all engaging, I got invested in the story and could hardly put it down. 

One thing about this book that surprised me is the tone of this book. This book, as is often the case with cozy-mysteries, starts off with a sighting of a dead body. The most likely cause of his death is an accident which could potentially be from a dizzy spell that Arthur had been suffering from. There come two women; Arthur’s fiance, Elspeth and his estranged daughter, Sabrina. Both women fiercely claim their innocence, insisting it is “other woman” who killed the victim. 

I really loved the way the story kicks off. It’s got a comical, humorous tone and the bitching that goes on between two women is such a treat.
That said, the tone of the book starts to take on a more serious note with a finding of a headless body which coincides with Sabrina’s sudden disappearance. From here, the focus of the mystery is more on solving Sabrina’s disappearance rather than unraveling the cause of Arthur’s death. 
Obviously, those two are closely connected. Sukey, the protagonist’s unofficial investigation unbeknownst to her lover, Castle who happens to be an investigative detective unravel the well-hidden entangled mess and inadvertently gets herself in a sticky, dangerous situation. 
Red-herrings abound, some characters look sinister and threatening, the writing generates ample tension suffices to keep me entertained till the end of the book. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised and taken aback by the intensity of this book as I went into this book thinking this is a light, fluff cozy mystery. The investigation itself looks far more realistic than your typical cozies!

Although the middle part, probably from 50% to 80% of the book felt kind of drab and lagging, I put it down to the story-buildup, laying the groundwork for later twists. I tend to want a constant stream of tension and thrills when it comes to mystery, so that part of my personality traits might have been part of it. 

The writing is strong and engaging, the characters are likable, I particularly enjoyed the team work between Sukey and her son, Fergus. How funny is it that Fergus is actually the level-headed, smart one and Sukey is a bit dense and slow? Sukey shots down almost every single suggestion Fergus makes but it turns out he is right and Sukey in the wrong! These two a really nice team and I’d love to see more of that!

As I mentioned, I enjoyed reading this cozy mystery overall, but my biggest issue is with the ending. 
This plot is such twisty-turny with a lot of red herrings scattered along the way, I had many times when I was fully convinced who the murderer is only to find I was completely wrong. The POV change happens in the latter part of the book helped me (irony) thrown off to the wrong track! 

That said though, what ensues a suspenseful moment is kind of rushed wrap-up. The culprit reveal and how the murder(s) happened are explained in one-rapid sitting through a “confession” of the accessory and I don’t know exactly what it is, but it just doesn’t sit well with me. It’s like a feeling of indigestion, cramming too much in small sittings and doesn’t feel right. My impression toward this book would have been quite different otherwise. 

There you have it; here are my thoughts and opinions on “Death on a Summer Morning.” I’d like to stress despite what I said, this is undeniably an engaging, satisfying cozy mystery and I quite enjoyed this ride.
This is my first book from Betty Rowlands but certainly won’t be my last. If you love cozy-mysteries, this author is someone to keep eye on. 

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher, Bookouture, for granting my request to read this book in exchange for my honest review. The opinions and thoughts are strictly my own. 

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