Book Review for “Murder in Married Life” (Tessa Crichton Mysteries #2) by Anne Morice.
Summary: “The soignée actress Tessa Crichton would rather be shopping and generally luxuriating in the pleasure of being newly married. However, she is soon embroiled in a plot involving an old acquaintance (murdered) and a friend (blackmailed). Being as shrewd as she is mischievous she begins to draw various conclusions, not all of them correct. Many of the encounters in the story take place during Tessa’s visits to a London department store, the top floor being a bar open to any customer who spends over twenty-five pounds. Here lies part of the secret which is bedevilling Robin, Tessa’s husband, at Scotland Yard – who hates blackmailers more than any other criminals. But will Tessa get a bit too knowing, and will her own life then be at stake?”
Age: Adult; Genres: Crime/Murder Mystery/Thriller, Women, Fiction; Settings: Contemporary, England/UK; Other Categories: Novel, Series, Humor.
Well, obviously, I enjoyed the first Tessa Crichton book enough to pick up this second one that Dean Street Press so kindly sent me. Also, thank goodness I found a window when I DNF one of the ARCs on my reading list. Now, reading this so soon after reading “Curtain” by Agatha Christie is a true measure of Morice’s talent. The thing is, the two authors are very different in their style of writing. Yes, this was actually originally published before Christie’s last Poirot book, but as I noted in my review of that book, Christie’s book was actually written in the 1940s, during WWII. Obviously, the style of language of these two books are very different from each other; Christie’s being far more classic and formal, and Morice’s being more modern and colloquial. In addition, Poirot is a male protagonist and a professional, while Tessa is a female protagonist who likes to stick her nose into her husband’s mysteries.
But to be totally honest, these comparisons are unnecessary, since we can enjoy them equally for each of their own merits. Still, I do want to add at least one more parallel here, and that being how both Christie and Morice were both adept and leading the reader astray, which only becomes apparent when we finally understand who the perpetrators are and what were their motives. Oh, and one other thing, both of these authors knew how to throw in just the right amount of humor into their stories. Mind you, with Christie’s book, more wry smiles were evoked, and with Morice’s novel I actually laughed out loud! Still, the very British wit is highly evident in both of these writers, which makes reading these books so much fun. I cannot abide by a mystery – either contemporary or historical – where the characters take themselves overly seriously. I’ll leave those for the thriller novels, and cling to my cozy mysteries – they’re far more enjoyable. (Mind you, today all the cozy mystery novels have such bad puns as titles, that I’ve been put off them all, but I’m sure they’re cute as buttons.)
In this second novel, Tessa and her adorable detective Robin are newlyweds, who are still getting used to living together, but seem to be working out most of the kinks, with very few pitfalls. The repartee between them is as sparkly as it was in the first novel, and there’s not a touch of saccharine, not one swoon, and no mushy cuddles (although no small amount of intimacy is implied). Since Tessa continues with her acting career while Robin is out fighting crime, this is a portrait of a very modern couple (for the 1970s) where we see two individuals who love each other, but never stop being unique entities, and who are very comfortable together. In short, the type of couple that you’d want to go out to dinner with, or be at their parties, or just visit with for a couple of days.
Now, if you read my review of Morice’s first novel, one of my complaints was that the murder took an awfully long time to happen. I mean, I was nearly half way through the book and no one had been killed, and I was starting to think that the title was ironic. Eventually, there was a dead body to investigate, and I put some of the delay down to Morice’s need to give us a good littering of background for both Tessa and Robin, in order to justify making these the main characters of a good, long series. In this novel, the corpse also takes its time to appear, but not quite as delayed as in the first book. Plus, there’s another crime being investigated to begin with – the blackmail – which helps the readers get into the mysterious mood until there’s a rousing pool of blood added into the mix. I won’t go into more details because you know I hate to include any spoilers. Instead, I’ll leave you with saying that this book is also very warmly recommended with a hearty four and a half stars out of five! (And yes, I do believe I want to read more of this series – very much so!)
Dean Street Press re-released “Murder in Married Life” by Anne Morice on April 5, 2021 (originally published in 1971). This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Foyles, Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery, eBooks.com, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the publishers for sending me an ARC of this novel.