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Who was Peggy Smith?

Cover of The Postscript Murders
A review of The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

There’s nothing particularly unusual about Peggy Smith. She’s an old lady living in an assisted living facility beside the sea, spends her days noting passersby in her notebooks and reading her beloved crime novels that fill her apartment. Even her death isn’t out of the norm--sudden and apparently peaceful in her chair overlooking the sea. But something about the death unsettles her carer, Natalka. How could a woman who was still spry enough to climb flights of stairs die of heart failure when her pills were within reach? Why are so many of the books in Peggy’s apartment dedicated to her, with the mysterious postscript:  PS:  for PS? Who are the strange men that were seen outside Peggy’s building before her death? They’re slender threads to hang suspicions on, but when Natalka turns to Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur, it’s enough to pique the investigator’s interest. And when one of the authors Peggy knew turns up very obviously murdered, DS Kaur knows that to solve that crime, she will have to unravel the riddle of just who Peggy Smith really was—and why do people connected with her keep dying?

The Postscript Murders marks the return of DS Kaur, the socially-awkward but tenacious officer who helped unravel the murders in 2020’s Edgar-winning novel The Stranger Diaries. It’s wonderful to see her back. But here’s she’s joined, to her annoyance, by a few of Peggy’s friends intent on playing detective: Natalka, the Ukrainian carer with quite a few secrets of her own; Benedict, the barista who’s at sea personally after his career as a monk fizzled; and the dapper Edgar, Peggy’s neighbor who feels he’s simply whiling away his time in his ‘halfway house to death.’ It’s an odd mix, but as much as Kaur would hate to admit it, the amateur trio is adept at turning up clues and connecting the dots into a coherent picture. But is it the right picture? Kaur and the trio’s track leads them through the golden age mysteries Peggy loved so, through whispers of Peggy’s past connections to Russia to a literary crime festival in Aberdeen where a few unexpected visitors appear.

With so many mysteries published each year, it’s sometimes hard to come across something fresh. Griffiths achieves that with The Postscript Murders while still paying tribute to the golden age detectives of the past, mixing in a dash of cozy with her amateur sleuths with a nod to police procedural in the figure of Detective Kaur (a gem, one hopes to see more of her in the future). Griffiths’ characters are well-crafted, and serious readers will recognize the unsurprising events of a well-lubricated literary festival. The Postscript Murders is a great choice for fans of Anthony Horowitz’s recent Magpie Murders, Richard Osman’s unlike crime fighters in The Thursday Murder Club, fans of the Masterpiece Mystery style of crime stories, or anyone who enjoys their traditional British murder mystery with a twist.

Nov 23, 2021