The Falconer Files series features the quaint villages and historic castles of the U.K., where in these novels, the picturesque countryside and its motley cast of inhabitants are not so sleepy and innocent as they seem. As of this writing the entire series is priced at $1.99 per book, so it’s a great time to dig into this wry, clever series of murder mysteries.
In the village of Castle Farthing a mean-spirited, spiteful, curmudgeonly old man is found drugged and strangled in the kitchen of his cottage, with no obvious clues to the perpetrator of the crime.
DI Falconer and Acting DS Carmichael are summoned from the police headquarters in the nearby town of Market Darley and begin to uncover a web of grudges against the old man and a sea of familial connections between those who knew him.
As the heat of July continues relentlessly, tempers flare, disturbing the usual rural calm of the village, and the normally imperturbable Harry Falconer. Faced with a crime with no obvious prime suspect and the idiosyncrasies of his new partner, Carmichael, he feels that he is gradually losing his grip on the case as the body count rises…
The villagers of Stoney Cross were bustling about like hyperactive ants. In gardens, houses, and the village hall, figures flitted to and fro, making last-minute preparations for their ‘Great Event': the first Stoney Cross Arts Festival, which was due to commence on Saturday. The enlisting of a local radio presenter to advertise then review their efforts had added an extra frisson of excitement.
But the delight soon turns to dismay when the broadcaster, Marcus Willoughby, actually moves into a house in Stoney Cross the day before the Festival. He turns out to be someone from various people’s pasts; someone whom they had hoped never to see again, and who greets them with recognition—and malice—in his eyes. To those he had never met before, he simply proves to be a smarmy, spiteful bigot, who proceeds to take great delight in verbally shredding their artistic efforts.
When he is found dead at his desk in his new home, no crocodile tears are shed. His demise is even presented on air, during his pre-recorded radio show Marcus having been ‘choked off’ for good while in full flow. His arrival in the village had obviously caused a few already guilty hearts to beat faster, and precipitates the hasty confessions of dark deeds thought long since buried. Into this welter of emotions is dispatched DI Harry Falconer, his erstwhile Acting Detective Sergeant, ‘Davey’ Carmichael riding shotgun, as they enter ‘bandit’ country once more.
Choked Off is the second instalment of Andrea Frazer’s Falconer Files, a detective series chock-full of picture-postcard villages, dastardly deeds, and a delightful slice of humour.
In the quiet village of Steynham St Michael there is an anonymous letter writer at work, jabbing and stabbing at the past’s Achilles’ heels of many of the upright citizens living there.
After one resident is driven to extreme measures to escape exposure, another is driven to murder.
In the village cards club, which meets once a week, tongues begin to wag, not only about the identities of the murderer and the poison pen letter-writer, but also about who exactly has received a letter.
There are also changes afoot at Market Darley Police Headquarters, as the national economy dictates that it accepts the straitened circumstances planned for it, and complies with recommendations for change.
And before any of this even happens, Harry Falconer drifts up from unconsciousness to find himself in complete darkness and barely able to move, the only sound being that of someone moaning in pain.
Shepford Stacey is an unassuming little village, its greatest asset being its small but excellent Church of England Primary School. This delightfully old-fashioned establishment of only two classes, one of infants, the other of juniors, has been run by the same pair of ladies for decades.
It is in the year that the headmistress, Audrey Finch-Matthews, is to retire, that the smooth running of this long-established educational establishment is interrupted by murder.
When Detective Inspector Harry Falconer and Detective Sergeant Davey Carmichael of the Market Darley Police arrive to investigate, they discover a host of motives, both past and present, and grudges that reach right back through the years.
As the Easter weekend grinds inexorably on its way, Death stalks the village again, and it suddenly becomes imperative that the murderer is caught before there are more fatalities.
Falconer soon realises that this is not the work of an opportunistic psychopath passing through, but of someone within the small community itself, taking lives at will, and there is no indication that the slaughter will stop here.