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The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood
Beatrix Potter series #3

by Susan Wittig Albert

      Beatrix Potter is back to serve up to hungry readers another slice of village life. After many months of life in London with her demanding parents, she is glad to return to Hill Top Farm for a fortnight of the rural idyll. But her house is overrun with rats, and although she is not a cat person it seems a moggy or two are required. Major Kittridge is back from the Boer War sporting various wounds, as well as a new red-haired wife, reputed to be a witch, who has the village talking about her. The vicar is cursed with relatives who won’t go home, and young Jeremy is devastated that his school life might be at an end and an apprenticeship looms before him. Can the fairies help?

Here is a book so cozy it makes a pair of slippers look like Doc Martens in comparison. Anybody who has read The Tale of Hill Top Farm and The Tale of Holly How (also reviewed on this site) will know the drill by now, and look forward to another tale of murder interspersed with authentic village life a hundred years ago, and those rather nicely-done talking animals. As outlined above there are lots of bits of story in here, but somehow they do not quite aspire to actual cohesion. The description of rural life a hundred years ago was perhaps my favorite part of the books, as it had such a ring of authenticity about it, warts and all -but where was the murder? The "human" side of things rather gets sidelined in this book and when it was finally laid aside, I had more images of children, fairies and animals than of anything adult; if I was a bookseller I would have trouble knowing where to file it. A return to the balanced recipe of the earlier volumes is needed for future entries I think, if this is indeed to be a series of whodunits intended for adult readers.

The Book

Berkley Prime Crime (Penguin Putnam)
27 June 2006
Historical Crime [1907, Lake District, England]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006