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Review: Bunburry 1, Murder at the Mousetrap

Bunburry - Murder at the Mousetrap: A Cosy Mystery Series. Episode 1 audiobook cover. A picturesque Cotswolds village full of warm stone cottages set against a blue sky. Bunburry - Murder at the Mousetrap: A Cosy Mystery Series. Episode 1 by Helena Marchmont.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 3 hrs 29 mins.

Murder at the Mousetrap, Bunburry: A Cosy Mystery Series Book 1 by Olga Wojtas (writing under her pseudonym Helena Marchmont) is a gentle crime novella set in a small Cotswolds village where Miss Marple meets Oscar Wilde; though not quite literally... Following the death of his great aunt, Alfie McAlister relocates to Bunburry, expecting not to remain there any longer than it takes to sell the house he has just inherited. Finding himself drawn into village life by the local amateur dramatic society and their penchant for Agatha Christie, Alfie soon joins forces with his Aunt Agatha's friends and neighbours to solve a mystery of their own.

This audiobook was warm, friendly, humorous, and soothing, remaining engaging throughout. Whilst the village was so chocolate-boxy that they actually produced their own fudge, it still managed not to feel saccharine. The plot was not particularly intricate but the characters were a diverse mix in age, gender, and nationality, and I very much enjoyed the fact that despite being a rural village every one of its residents felt as though they had found a place for themselves within it. Even Alfie's Aunt Augusta, or 'Gussie', was embraced by her neighbours despite her unconventional approach to life (and interior design). Her friends, Liz and Marge, were a delight and I was glad to see them take such a central role in the story.

A character from whom we heard less - but whose presence was very welcome - was Alfie's friend, Oscar. Obsessed with his Wildean namesake, Oscar's dry wit and plagiarised observations could have been a gimmicky irrelevance but they never felt such. Instead he lent the stories a touch of elegance, and I enjoyed each of the little asides where Alfie called to update him on events. I have long collected quotes from Wilde, and was pleased to see the author sneak in several in this fashion.

I connected with both the village and its inhabitants much more immediately than I have any other contemporary cosy, as even with the Cherringhambooks it took me a while to settle into them. The only disappointment with this book is its brevity, but as it only cost a couple of pounds I can't really grumble about that. I have already downloaded the following two books, and am looking forward to spending more time in Bunburry as the collection expands. I think the Bunburry mysteries will prove to be the perfect bedtime listening, though with this one I was always tempted to listen longer than I'd originally intended!

I do, however, wish that Lubbe Audio didn't add jangly music to the beginning and end of their audiobooks. It may only be something they do with their cosy mysteries, but as with Cherringham (where they begin each tale with something that sounds like a James Bond theme being played on a doorbell) the Bunburry mysteries start and finish with the sort of tune you'd only expect to hear from an icecream van towing a fairground waltzer. I'm sure it probably does help give each series a distinct signature, but it is rather annoying when listening at bedtime - especially if the musical flourish at the end wakes the listener up!

The narrator Nathaniel Parker was new to me but has a very pleasing voice. Rich and resonant, lively and expressive, his performance was charming and ideal for a series like this one. I hope they stick with him for future books in this series, as Cherringham has with Neil Dudgeon, because he brought the village to life very nicely.

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