Rebecca Tope writes a number of series of crime fiction books – I review those set in the Lake District here. In one of the series which she has published the books are set in the West Country and the main character, Drew, has set up an alternative burial site for those who want funerals to be more basic and less formulaic although he often becomes drawn into investigating crimes. The Sting of Death is the sixth of those books but, like most crime series, it doesn’t really matter if you haven’t read the others.
Drew and his wife Karen are visited by her cousin Penn who is disturbed that her own cousin Justine is missing. Drew knows Justine’s mother but she is unconcerned about the disappearance as she is estranged from Justine although close to Penn. Justine’s mother is a beekeeper who is not at all interested in anything about death or anything at all disturbing so she ignores unpleasant things. I found her alarmingly selfish and unpleasant but all the other characters seem to like her and to find her attitude to Justine and to her own partner acceptable.
Drew investigates the disappearance and reports it to the police. It then transpires that the small child of a neighbour has also disappeared, allegedly with Justine, but her parents don’t seem unduly concerned. When Justine turns up, having been kept prisoner, and denies all knowledge of events her own mother thinks she is making up the story about what happened to her and people still don’t seem to be alarmed about the missing child. Then Penn disappears as well.
I read this book easily enough because it was short but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it. I felt that the author made too many of the characters deeply dislikeable (dislikeable by me, anyway) and that the perpetrators of the disappearances were very obvious from as soon as they entered the story. This book didn’t work for me although I have read a previous book in this series and enjoyed it.