Monday, March 23, 2020

“A Picture of Murder” by T E Kinsey – Legacy of the Dead Actors

A Picture of Murder by T E Kinsey (Book cover)

T E Kinsey has been doing a remarkable job at creating a new household name among sleuths with Lady Hardcastle.

In A Picture of Murder, the fourth book in the series, we follow the Lady and her trusty maid Flo as they investigate a string of murdered actors during a grand Halloween celebration in the small village of Littleton Cotterell.

T E Kinsey Starts the Halloween Massacre

It's pretty much an unwritten rule for every sleuth and investigator in literature to go through some kind of Halloween-related trials at one point in their careers, and Lady Hardcastle is no exception, facing the very real demons of the night in T E Kinsey's A Picture of Murder.

Taking us to the village of Littleton Cotterell, the fourth novel in the Lady Hardcastle Mystery Series puts our beloved sleuth right in the middle of a grand celebration, only interrupted by the cruelty of Man.

The main attraction, at least for many people in the village, is the scary moving picture (the story takes place in 1909) titled The Witch's Downfall.

The troupe members themselves are hosting the screenings, and on the first night things seem to be edging towards success... until one of the actors turns up dead.

On the second night of screenings, the horror repeats itself, and it becomes clear a maniac is on the prowl.

Despite their supposed years of training and experience, the police are once again completely baffled and impotent in the face of a more cunning enemy, leaving once again Lady Hardcastle and her trusty martial arts expert maid Flo to track down the evil-doer.

In the midst of the festivities few things are as they appear, and it seems everyone is wearing some kind of mask, whether real or metaphorical. With the clock ticking down each day, Lady Hardcastle may have to deviate from her usual methods and shed light on the killer.

The Village Come to Life in A Picture of Murder

To begin with, even though this is the fourth book in the series, it can be read as a standalone and used as an entry point just as well as the first, second, or third books.

There are concise recaps and explanations of previous events and relationships which are more than sufficient to equip you for the story ahead.

In any case, despite this indeed being a murder mystery above and beyond anything, the first element which jumped out at me was the amount of effort Kinsey put into making the village resplend with life and detail as the buzz of the Halloween celebrations takes over.

While we seldom dwell on any one person for too long, the author always throws in something remarkable, memorable or unique in our encounters with the townsfolk, which in the end gives the whole adventure a somewhat surreal atmosphere.

Personally, I found this to be a well-realized and welcome change of pace from the more traditional “English countryside” murder setting.

Another element I appreciated was how the author took the time to acquaint us with the movie troupe, who also happen to be guesting at Lady Hardcastle's house.

They make up for a total of six people, and in large part they are the focus of the plot from start to finish. As such, it's quite nice to learn about their nuanced backgrounds and stories, their unique traits and past endeavours which led them down their paths in life.

It didn't take long for them to go from story fodder to characters I could actually care about, and in my opinion it's an important element in the composition of any solid murder mystery.

The Fumbling Investigation

If there is one thing we have really grown accustomed to seeing in our classic murder mysteries, it's sleuths and detectives who are totally empowered by their intellectual (and sometimes instinctual) capacities.

While they can make a mistake here and there, it's definitely an unusual state for them. In this novel, Lady Hardcastle and Flo definitely seem like they're trying to run against this convention, and I mean this in a good way.

Quickly enough after the first murder, the case becomes exponentially more complicated, in addition to which more bodies soon follow. The situation is frantic, only made more so by the string of deductive mistakes Lady Hardcastle makes.

She is wrong on more than one occasion, and while I admit it sounds like it would be an off-putting trait for any investigator, Kinsey handles it with a lot of grace and a good sense of spacing.

As a result, this creates a welcome extra bit of tension as we get the feeling our heroine has finally met her match. While she might triumph in the end, the question is at what cost.

Despite the grim nature of the events taking place in this book, Kinsey once again returns with his signature brand of humour which seems to make its way into nearly every crack and corner in the story.

A Picture of Murder by T E Kinsey (Book cover)
It colours virtually every step of the investigation, which by the way we get to follow with all the facts at our disposal, armed with the same knowledge as our detectives.

Every macabre new discovery is seemingly contrasted with something lighter and more hopeful, which ultimately allows a story with multiple dead bodies not to feel very sombre.

The Final Verdict

A Picture of Murder by T E Kinsey is an excellent addition to the Lady Hardcastle Mystery Series, changing up the setting a bit from what we're used to and shaking up the course of the investigation.

If you enjoy classic murder mysteries which give you the tools to solve the case yourself alongside a good dose of poignant humour, then I'd say you can't go wrong with this novel.

T E Kinsey (Author)

T E Kinsey

Personal site

T E Kinsey is a writer who grew up in London and had the distinction of reading history at Bristol University. Before becoming an author he worked as a magazine features writer as well as an online content editor for various entertainment websites.

His published career began with A Quiet Life in the Country, the first entry in the Lady Hardcastle Mystery series. In the Market for Murder and Death Around the Bend were two of his other best-received books, also part of the series.

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