Mrs. Malory and the Festival Murder: The Fourth Mrs. Malory Mystery

Mrs. Malory and the Festival Murder ($12.95, 186 pages, 5×8 Trade Paperback, ISBN: 978-1-60381-046-3) is the fourth book in a cozy mystery series by Hazel Holt. Mrs. Malory visits the Taviscombe Festival, which has been appropriated by Adrian Palgrave, a writer of little renown. Palgrave, literary executor for Lawrence Meredith, a leading literary figure of the 20s and 30s, is found beaten to death, and suspects abound. Two other deaths and an attempt to destroy Meredith’s papers lead Sheila to search for long-held secrets that bred fatal consequences.

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Original Publication Date: 1993

Everyone in the small seaside village of Taviscombe is looking forward to the festival. So is Mrs. Sheila Malory—that is, until the unpleasant Adrian Palgrove joins the planning committee. Mrs. Malory, an avid reader of nineteenth century literature, is dismayed to find the man constantly in her path. First Adrian gleefully informs her that he has been appointed executor of the estate of a renowned author, whose private life he intends to expose. Soon his bad behavior has alienated his fellow committee members. One of his many enemies despises him enough to murder him just as the festival is underway.

Mrs. Malory has impressive credentials when it comes to solving murders, but with so many suspects, she hardly knows where to begin.

Book Four in A Mrs. Malory Mystery

Hazel Holt was born in Birmingham, England, where she attended King Edward VI High School for Girls. She studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, and went on to work at the International African Institute in London, where she became acquainted with the novelist Barbara Pym, whose biography she later wrote. She also finished one of Pym’s novels after Pym died. Holt has also recently published My Dear Charlotte, a story that uses the actual language of Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra to construct a Regency murder mystery. Holt wrote her first novel in her sixties, and is a leading crime novelist. She is best known for her Mrs. Malory series. Her son is novelist Tom Holt.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

The high-spot of any stay in a hotel for me is the Full English Breakfast. At home I rarely have more than a slice of toast and a cup of tea, but when I’m away I always go the whole hog. This particular morning my plate was deliriously full of bacon, egg, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding, and fried bread and I sat and contemplated it with satisfaction. I had just unfolded my Daily Telegraph and was giving myself over wholly to pleasure when I was aware of a figure standing beside me. It was Adrian Palgrave.

‘Ah, Sheila. May I join you?’ he asked and without waiting for my reply he sat down.

He went droning on about how tiresome it was to have to come all this way to speak at this tedious luncheon but one did have a duty to one’s publisher. Needless to say, his breakfast consisted of half a grapefruit and a black coffee. Fortunately he didn’t seem to require any actual verbal response so I was able to get on with my food, but the treat was ruined and I was thoroughly put out.

‘I must say I was surprised that they asked Alicia Nash to be the other speaker. I mean, she is a highly competent actress – she was in one of my radio plays – but hardly a literary figure.’

‘She has just written a book,’ I replied. The fried bread was very crisp and a piece shot off my plate when I cut into it. Adrian looked at my still substantial plateful with some distaste and said: ‘Memoirs. Anecdotes, really.’

‘I haven’t read it,’ I said, ‘but they say it’s very amusing.’

Adrian scrutinized my plate more carefully. ‘Should you be eating all that fried stuff?’ he asked. ‘I suppose you know it’s crammed with cholesterol and statistics have shown that middle-aged women are just as liable to heart-attacks as middle-aged men.’

I did not need Adrian Palgrave to remind me that I am a widow in my mid-fifties. I bit into a piece of black pudding defiantly.

‘At my advanced age,’ I said, ‘this is the only way left to live dangerously.’

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