When social worker Vivien Morse is found dead, suspects abound. Unfortunately, each of the possible killers seems to have a solid alibi. DCI Peter Hatherall and DI Fiona Williams are facing one of the most difficult cases they have ever worked on.
At first, the culprit seems to be Vivien’s estranged husband, but soon her supervisor, an odd wandering Druid, and an escaped convict come into the picture. The only thing that links them all is Vivien’s last client, a damaged young woman waiting for her lover to rescue her.
Theme of the Book
The author has written more than a murder mystery. While the murders take center stage, the dynamics of dysfunctional families, of damaged people, and of overwhelming greed all add to the atmosphere of Who Killed Vivien Morse?
What I liked about the story
There is much to like in this book and, indeed, in the entire Peter Hatherall series.
The puzzles the police have to solve are intricate and will keep the reader guessing until the end. There are plenty of red herrings to distract both the police and the reader in Who Killed Vivien Morse? but none of these can be considered outlandish or unbelievable. Each mystery is well-constructed and will certainly keep readers turning pages.
The descriptions of the English countryside add to the atmosphere of menace and confusion. It is often gray and rainy; the roads are mainly country lanes, rutted and bumpy; farms and cottages are isolated but pubs, at least, seem to be warm and welcoming. Into this beautifully described countryside come equally well-described secondary characters. Gladys, who is a recurring character in the series, and her new beau, Dick, add a touch of humor and romance. Glenys Pitman is perfect as the village busy-body minding everyone else’s business.
The author has done equally well with her main characters. Ellen Bassett, Vivien’s client, is a tragic and flawed young woman who seems at once pitiful and dangerous. Rob Creer, the convicted murderer and con man, is at once charming and frightening. But the stars of the series are Peter and Fiona, the two police officers. Each is a complex, emotionally insecure character yet with the strength of purpose to be effective in their jobs. There is a definite tension between them which is partly sexual in nature that could lead to interesting developments if the series continues.
What I Didn’t Like About the Story
The one thing that bothered me somewhat was the solution to the killing of Vivien’s supervisor, Jane. On the first reading, I thought the author had neglected to give a solution but on rereading, I found that the solution offered was less than satisfactory. It seemed that, instead of relying on evidence or on deduction, the author relied on a cliché. Without giving away important plot points, I will simply say that this could have been handled in a better way.
Who Killed Vivien Morse? is an excellent addition to the Peter Hatherwall series. Fans of British mysteries and of police procedurals could do much worse than add this to their libraries. I’d strongly suggest reading the previous novels in the series first to get the backgrounds of the characters, but this can easily be read as a stand-alone book.