Hill, Suzette A - 'A Load of Old Bones'
A LOAD OF OLD BONES introduces the Reverend Francis Oughterard (F.O.) and his new acquisitions: Maurice the cat and Bouncer the dog and is set in the idyllic middle-class village of Molehill in Surrey in 1957.
F.O. is very laid back. Almost anything is too much effort and he only joined the Church after he left the army and wanted something with a similar structure. Unmarried, his pleasures are playing the piano, smoking, drinking whiskey and mint humbugs. He's very content with the quiet parish he's been given, that is until Elizabeth Fotherington sets her cap at him. She constantly turns up unannounced and he is worried that people will think they are an item. Bowler the bank manager doesn't hide his dislike of the situation, upsetting the apple-cart even further.
Then something awful happens. Elizabeth is murdered and the vicar knows far too much about it for a man of the cloth. When Bowler disappears, his dog Bouncer and Elizabeth's cat Maurice are left homeless. Maurice is pro-active and sees that they would be well cared for at the vicarage and inveigles them both into F.O.'s household. When the police suspect F.O. of killing Elizabeth, it's up to his pets to get him out of trouble and safeguard their new domestic arrangement.
A LOAD OF OLD BONES is told from three points of view: The Cat's Memoir, The Dog's Diary and The Vicar's Version. The latter tells most of the story and while it is humorously written throughout in an old-fashioned style, there are laugh out loud portions in the sections narrated by the cat and dog:
"[Maurice] tells me that once I'm in the house I should be on my best behaviour and to keep wagging my tail. Says I should do it with Brio. Who Brio is or where he comes into it I'm not sure but I like wagging my tail and can do it jolly well."
Maurice is supercilious and Bouncer is a bit dim but they make a great team and it's hard not to like F.O. despite his character flaws – he really shouldn't be let out without an adult present!
A LOAD OF OLD BONES is a fun cosy with a couple of twists which make it quite unusual - and not just because of the 'talking' animals. I look forward to reading the follow-up, BONES IN THE BELFRY.
Read another review of A LOAD OF OLD BONES.
Karen Meek, England
More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.