January 2024 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose, The Last Word by Elly Griffiths and Piglet by Lottie Hazell

The Mystery Guest – Nita Prose

Socially awkward cleaning enthusiast and amateur sleuth Molly the maid returns in this standalone follow up to last year’s excellent murder mystery The Maid. Nita Prose (what else was she going to do with that name?) has an eye for quirky characters, dark comedy and a good mystery just on the right side of cosy.

A new mess. A new mystery. Molly the maid returns.

Molly Gray wears her Head Maid badge proudly for every shift at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows, sweeping up the guests’ secrets, silently restoring rooms to a state of perfection.

But when a renowned guest – a famous mystery writer – drops very dead in the grand tea room, Molly has an unusual clean-up on her hands.

As rumours and suspicion swirl in the hotel corridors, it’s clear there’s grime lurking beneath the gilt. And Molly knows that she alone holds the key to the mystery. But unlocking it means thinking about the past, about Gran, and everything else she’s kept tidied away in her memory for so long.

Because Molly knew the dead guest once upon a time – and he knew her.

Images above: The Mystery Guest front cover, author Nita Prose

The Last Word – Elly Griffiths

A bit more cosy(ish) crime, as the long nights and post Christmas comedown make the perfect time for it. Elly Griffiths is a bit of a crime writing powerhouse with 30 novels under her belt. She knows exactly what she’s doing, and her latest has the fun bookish theme of murder in a writer’s circle.

Natalka and Edwin are perfect if improbable partners in a detective agency. At eighty-four, Edwin regularly claims that he’s the oldest detective in England. Natalka, Ukrainian-born and more than fifty years his junior, is a math whizz, who takes any cases concerning fraud or deception. Despite a steady stream of minor cases, Natalka is frustrated. She loves a murder, as she’s fond of saying, and none have come the agency’s way. That is until local writer Melody Chambers dies.

Melody’s daughters are convinced that their mother was murdered. Edwin thinks that Melody’s death is linked to that of an obituary writer who predeceased many of his subjects. Edwin and Benedict go undercover to investigate and are on a creative writing weekend at isolated Battle House when another murder occurs. Are the cases linked and what is the role of a distinctly sinister book group attended by many of writers involved? By the time Edwin has infiltrated the group, he is in serious danger…

Images above: The Last Word front cover, author Ella Griffiths

Piglet – Lottie Hazell

This looks pretty much set to be one of the first ‘everyone’s talking about…’ books of the year, and plenty of folk seem to be enamoured of it already. A tale of conformity and expectation versus freedom and impulse, this novel has plenty to say and takes a bit of a different approach in saying it.

 For Piglet – an unshakable childhood nickname – getting married is her opportunity to reinvent. Together, Kit and Piglet are the picture of domestic bliss – effortless hosts, planning a covetable wedding … But if a life looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Thirteen days before they are due to be married, Kit reveals an awful truth, cracking the façade Piglet has created. It has the power to strip her of the life she has so carefully built, so smugly shared. To do something about it would be to self-destruct. But what will it cost her to do nothing?

As the hours count down to their wedding, Piglet is torn between a growing appetite and the desire to follow the recipe, follow the rules. Surely, with her husband, she could be herself again. Wouldn’t it be a waste for everything to curdle now?

Images above: Piglet front cover, author Lottie Hazell