published by Bewrite Books 2007
paperback ISBN: 978-1-905202-53-9
ebook ISBN: 978-1-905202-54-6
I read this on my Kindle courtesy of a digital copy kindly given to me by the author.
Lights! Camera! Action! . Murder! A rollicking puzzle and a turmoil of personal relationships, some happy, some doomed, some downright evil. The third adventure for Belinda and Hazel continuing the pace and humour that readers have come to acknowledge and appreciate. Excitement and tension begin on the first day of filming a Restoration drama on location at the historic Jacobean mansion, Ham House in Surrey when one of the leading players collapses and dies. With the death ruled non-accidental the director, producer and members of the cast are all suspects. An award winning Hollywood star is brought in to replace the dead actor and Belinda is employed as her stand-in. When another member of the crew is found stabbed to death, Belinda is forced to prove her innocence. In all this tumult, Belinda finds herself torn between her long-time English lover, Mark and the energetic and exuberant Australian, Brad she met again on a trip to Australia.
This novel gives Australian author Brian Kavanagh an opportunity to parade both his knowledge of and extensive experience in the film industry and his delight in English history.
His central characters Australian Belinda Lawrence and local woman Hazel Whitby are well created and very believable. Belinda and Hazel are working in partnership: Hazel runs an antique shop in Bath, and provides Belinda with furniture in her heritage listed house and garden. Their business is commissioned to provide authentic cutlery for the feature film being made at Ham House. Hazel’s latest “young man” is a film editor about to begin work on the Ham House film. He’s an Australian who has not visited the West country before and Hazel has been showing him the sights. Belinda, on the other hand, has recently been home to Australia and has just returned, and is feeling a bit ambivalent about her lover Mark. Belinda bears a passing resemblance to one of the stars of the film and is invited to be a stand-in.
The plot of BLOODY HAM is well developed: there are a number of connected deaths before it comes to its conclusion, and a cast of interesting characters. Like earlier novels in the series this novel is really a “cosy”.
I liked the way Kavanagh added a few Australian characters to this novel, and the way he played with their language and characteristics.
My rating: 4.2
Other reviews to enjoy:
Reactions to Reading: Bloody Ham offers an entertaining combination of an old-fashioned whodunit with characters who are fun to meet.
My mini reviews of the two earlier titles in the series:
CAPABLE OF MURDER (2005), my rating 3.9
Young Australian living in London, Belinda Lawrence, is contacted by her great aunt who lives near Bath. The old lady has something important that she wants to tell her. Belinda finds her aunt’s decaying body at the foot of the stairs in her cottage but appearances seem to indicate that she has had an accidental fall. Various events and coincidences convince Belinda that her aunt was in fact murdered. Belinda decides to live in the cottage she has inherited from her aunt, more people die, and she is not sure who to trust. The book takes a lot from the tradition of English village “cosies” and reminded me a little of books I used to read decades ago – Victoria Holt, Susan Howatch and similar “gothic” style novelists. For me it was just a little old-fashioned, but it was a quick read, and plot content was interesting enough.
THE EMBROIDERED CORPSE (2006), my rating 4.1
#2 in the Belinda Lawrence series. Set about 2 years after the first (CAPABLE OF MURDER), Belinda now has her inherited cottage set up with its re-constructed Capability Brown garden. Antique collector Hazel Whitby has furnished it with appropriate furniture and it is now on the tourist bus routes, bringing in a small income. Real estate agent Mark Sallinger completes the investigative trio as wll as providing the romance interest. On their way back from an antiques fair at Castle Howard, Belinda and Hazel call in at Kidbrooke House and are shown a framed piece of tapestry by its elderly owner. It reminds Belinda of the Bayeux tapestry and she decides she wants to see the Bayeux replica at Reading. Just after their visit to Kidbrooke House its elderly owner is murdered. Hazel buys some furniture from his deceased estate and accidentally becomes the owner of the tapestry which she gives to Belinda. This book is a delightful romp somewhat in the vein of Margaret Rutherford’s interpretation of Miss Marple. I suspect Brian Kavanagh is rather enjoying writing these stories with their mixture of murder, mayhem and romance.
THE EMBROIDERED CORPSE has indications that he is constantly honing his craft, and I think they would be popular with YA female readers. Try to read them in order (CAPABLE OF MURDER, then THE EMBROIDERED CORPSE)