Who among us—perhaps after binge-watching “Murder, She Wrote” or finishing yet another murder-mystery novel—hasn’t thought we’d be passable crime-solvers, if ever called upon to ferret out clues or mull over motives?
In Elly Griffiths’ The Postscript Murders, a motley and charming trio of amateur sleuths gets their chance for the saddest of reasons: Their friend, the intelligent and gregarious Peggy, is found dead in her home. Healthcare aide Natalka discovers 90-year-old Peggy in her armchair, where she liked to look out the bay window at her Shoreham-by-Sea, England, neighborhood and seafront. There is a notebook, binoculars and mystery novel by her side, as well as a business card that reads, “Mrs. M. Smith, Murder Consultant.”
That surprising job title seems even stranger when Natalka, Benedict (coffee shop owner and ex-monk) and Edwin (retired after many years at the BBC) sort through Peggy’s extensive collection of crime novels and realize the vast majority are dedicated to her. What, they wonder, does “Thanks for the murders” mean?
The trio runs their theories by Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, whom Griffiths fans will remember from 2019’s Edgar Award-winning The Stranger Diaries. Here, Kaur reluctantly considers the trio’s speculation about Peggy’s demise, ultimately partnering with them when a literary festival in Aberdeen, Scotland, becomes the site of additional untimely deaths and other assorted dangers.
Griffiths’ strong sense of place—the sea is sparkling yet unsettling, Aberdeen’s cliffs beautiful yet unforgiving—provides a rich foundation for a cleverly constructed story with complex, memorable characters. Each is granted multiple turns to share their innermost thoughts, from feverish yet fearful interest in their detective work to poignant musings on years past. Through them, the societal tendency to underestimate the elderly is examined and defied time and again.
The Postscript Murders is a cozy bibliophile’s delight of a mystery that turns writerly research and acknowledgments into fodder for pivotal plot points, offers a tongue-in-cheek peek at the publishing business and pays tribute to friendships that transform into chosen families.