By Ann Granger

Avon, 1998
ISBN 0-380-73087-1

Reviewed by S. E. Warwick

If you must have a Vicar in your English cozy, youíll be disappointed in A TOUCH OF MORTALITY, the eighth in Ann Grangerís Meredith and Markby series.

Though set in the obligatory quaint English village complete with tiny cottages precious enough to tuck around a model railroad, A TOUCH OF MORTALITY follows the formula only so far. Granger treats the stereotypical old codger, animal rights activists, city people escaping to the country, and local constabulary in such a way that you wonder if they exist in a parallel universe to the usual cast of characters in such fare.

Even the hot liquids that the British obsessively quaff become suspect to Inspector Markby and his sometime significant other, Meredith Mitchell on sick leave from her job at the Foreign Office. The task at hand is catch whoever is trying to kill Liam Caswell, a brilliant scientist rumored to have done unspeakable things to beagles in the name of medical research.

Before the puzzle is solved, an old man is dead, his beloved but smelly goats the only witnesses to his demise. Was it an accident, or murder? The details of the old manís curious life hide behind his death, protected by a village that refuses to speak ill of the dead.

In addition to the usual murder and mayhem, Granger gives a good dose of contemporary British life, something we probably expect more than a good puzzle in our mysteries these days. During one unsuccessful murder attempt, we get a glimpse of Britainís much touted socialized medicine. To underline the inadequacies of state funded health care, one of the protagonistís preoccupations is affording a private health plan. The hospitals seem dreary enough to scare you healthy.

The action is low key which adds tension to the plot by its very plodding. Grangerís version of a cozy has just enough edge to appeal to a broad range of readers while staying true to type.

Even though Iím not a cozy connoisseur, Iíd like to become better acquainted with Meredith and Markby, if only to see where the permutations of a Foreign Office person and a policeman lead.

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