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The Tale of Holly How
Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter Mysteries

by Susan Wittig Albert

      Beatrix Potter is loved by millions as the creator of such immortal characters as Benjamin Bunny and Jeremy Fisher, but suppose she dabbled in a spot of detective work as well? This is the second in this series of novels detailing her life as a farmer in England's beautiful Lake District (the first being The Tale of Hilltop Farm), a partly fictional and partly factual look at this famous author. This time the old shepherd Ben Hornby has been discovered dead following a tumble off the fells - but did he fall or was he pushed? As Dr Butters thinks the latter the miscreant must be found, and order returned to the village of Sawrey. Threaded through this is the story of young Caroline, sent from New Zealand to live with her irascible grandmother Lady Longford and the search for a new head teacher for the village school. The animals have their own troubles too - missing badgers stolen away for baiting, and the adventures of ginger guinea pig, Tuppenny.

If you like cozies, curl up by your fireside with this most enjoyable and unusual series. There is a detective story in here of course, but somehow that isn't the part that stays in the mind after reading this novel. There is a convincing description of life a hundred years ago in a Lake District village to enjoy too with all its gossip and minutiae, plus the added dimension of the animals that talk amongst themselves and carry on just like the characters in Beatrix Potter's books. Tabitha Twitchett, Rascal the dog, Bosworth Badger in this set and more, all add their special magic to make this story...especially magical. This probably sounds too twee for words but somehow it isn't (or I wouldn't be reading it). All the ingredients above are there in just enough quantity to make this a most palatable recipe, gentle but authentic and highly readable. There is a large cast and it is easy to forget who's who so a list of characters appears at the front as well as a glossary of dialect words at the back. Fewer people wouldn't have harmed the story and made it less confusing (which it is at times) but overall this is a very entertaining story and I will certainly be looking for the third installment.

The Book

Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin Putnam)
July 2005
Historical Crime [1905, Lake District, England]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005