“Murder in My Backyard” by Ann Cleeves – a traditional murder mystery set in an English village

Starting my blogs about houses and homes I begin in the near neighbourhood with Ann Cleeve’s book Murder in my Backyard. You’ll have read my enthusiasm for this author’s Shetland books elsewhere but this novel is actually part of a series featuring Inspector Stephen Ramsay which were written earlier in her career.

The first thing to say is that this book is the second in a series and as I haven’t read the first I missed some of the reasoning for Ramsay’s relocation to a small village in the countryside in Northumberland. This really didn’t matter and had no bearing on the story. You watch Ramsay take possession of his new cottage and begin to learn about the locality just before he finds that there is a body in his own neighbourhood.

This is a very traditional murder mystery. It’s well plotted with lots of good landscape atmosphere. The author’s excellent writing about localities is transferred to this series. What is less successful is the characterisation. I never felt that I understood Ramsay or many of the other characters other than in the most superficial way. I did, however, get a good feel for the village and the links and relationships between characters.

The book is well paced and engaging enough to read. The plot is satisfying and there are a suitable number of red herrings thrown in. Ramsay has to work out why someone would want to murder a woman who seems very popular and he does this by talking to witnesses and making deductions – this is not a book with a lot of action in it.

If you read this book expecting a novel of the strength of the Shetland books then you are going to be disappointed but if you are looking for a more traditional crime story where there is a restricted number of suspects, everyone is hiding something and the story is based in an English village then this is just the thing.