Sharyn McCrumb’s novel Missing Susan is set on a coach tour of Britain. The tourists are all Americans who are interested in crime so the tour includes places famous from crime fiction but also where famous true crimes have occurred. This book was written some years ago now so most of the books and crimes mentioned are quite a way in the past and should be familiar to any regular reader of the genre. This allows the author to talk a little bit about favourite books and true crime stories that obviously interest her and these bits add a lot to the novel.
One of the tour group is Elizabeth McPherson who has featured in a number of this author’s cosy crime books including The Windsor Knot which I read in January and talk about here. Elizabeth has married her marine biologist boyfriend but he is now on a trip to sea and she will be alone for several months so she decides to join the tour as she has developed an interest in true crime – readers of books in this series will note that Elizabeth develops a new interest regularly and then immerses herself in it before she moves on to another. The other group members are a variety of Americans, mainly women.
The leader of the tour is Rowan, a washed up historian who conducts Jack the Ripper tours of London and similar and is open to a shady deal. He has been approached to murder one of the tour members by a relative and to pass it off as an accident. Although Rowan is a morally dubious character you actually become quite fond of him as he tries to find ways to murder Susan and continually fails. Obviously murder should not be amusing but the author helps us to overlook this and enjoy Rowan’s challenge, especially as Susan is such an annoying woman.
This is a strange book in that the information about crimes and the locations that the tour visit seem to be one story and the murder plot is another. Elizabeth doesn’t play a huge part in the story but is necessary for its finale which is clever. Despite these flaws I loved this story. It is short and easy to read and amusing too. It is good quality cosy crime.