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Review of 'Foul Play at Seal Bay' - Judy Leigh

It was meant to be the start of quiet season in the sleepy Cornish village of Seal Bay, but not for sexagenarian librarian and wild swimming enthusiast Morwenna Mutton. Because when a local businessman is found on the beach with a bread knife is his back, bungling police officer DI Rick Tremayne is soon out of his depth. Morwenna knows it’s going to be down to her to crack the case.

The list of people the victim upset is long, the evidence is slight, and an arrest illusive. Morwenna has plenty to occupy her time what with ghostly goings-on at the library and skullduggery at her granddaughter’s school, but she could never resist a challenge. And even the most ruthless of murderers should quake at the sight of this amateur sleuth getting on her bike to track them down.

If you love Miss Marple and The Thursday Murder Club, then you'll love The Morwenna Mutton mysteries.

I was attracted to this book because it promised an older protagonist as the detective and in Morwenna Mutton, it certainly delivers that. Morwenna's interesting past provides the reader with a cast of supporting characters who add a sense of community to the book. Her ex-husband, Ruan is by far the most likeable and there is a definite sense that both of them regret the fact they are no longer together, even if Morwenna doesn't want to admit it to herself.

All the things you would expect to find in a book set in Cornwall are present in abundance - pasties, cream teas, emmet-hating locals and a proliferation of Cornish dialect words. In fact, at times, it seems as though pasties and scones are the only thing available to eat in the village. The delights (and dangers) of sea swimming are also loudly lauded and with friends who are also converts to this activity, I found myself laughing at Morwenna's attempts to convince everyone around her that it's a wonderful form of exercise.

When it comes to the actual mystery, there is the usual long list of suspects, any one of whom would have made a convincing protagonist and the usual prejudices come to the fore when the village is rocked by an unexpected event. However, it was interesting to see how these were confronted by the characters. Whilst it's true that in life the vast majority of people hold prejudices of one kind or another, it's unusual to see this portrayed so openly in a cosy crime novel. There are times when the characters become very insular in their outlook, even to the extent of expressing dislike of anyone who comes from a different part of Cornwall to them.

The ending was satisfying in the sense that everything was resolved in terms of the immediate plot, but character arcs were left so that they can be further developed as the series continues, which is exactly as it should be. Whilst I'm fairly sure that Ruan and Morwenna are destined to return to each other, it will be interesting to see how their relationship develops and whether or not they will actually find their way home again.

Judy Leigh is the USA Today bestselling author of The Old Girls’ Network and Five French Hens and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.

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Judy Leigh
Judy Leigh
Aug 11, 2023

Thank you for your kind review. Sending best wishes, J xx

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