I first found out about this series when I reviewed one of the middle books, Bone Idle, for the newspaper local to where I was living at the time, and in some ways that’s still my favorite. It’s written by a pair of school chums, Jill Staynes and Margaret Storey, and in some ways has the problems I’ve noticed in other collaborations–a little stiff, a little lacking in authorial voice–but enjoyable if you like cozies about England.
The series begins with Goodbye, Nanny Gray shortly after an automobile accident has killed Bone’s wife and infant son; he and his daughter, Charlotte, are still recovering, both emotionally and physically. The book is a blend typical of cozy mysteries: delving into the personal lives of its characters, and police investigations of a murder. In Goodbye, Nanny Gray, Phoebe Gray, retired nanny, is found dead in her own bed having apparently fallen asleep; needless to say, since this is a murder mystery, it turns out to be otherwise. In Bone Idle, Bone and his amour from previous books, Grizel, have finally married and are attempting a honeymoon of sorts at the Great House of a friend of Grizel’s. Unfortunately, they’ve picked the same weekend that a house tour is coming through. Needless to say, not one but two murders intervene, one of the deaths being that of the owner of the house. The solution of the deaths is complicated by not only determining who inherits the estate and the title, but also by a pugnacious, obnoxious, class-conscious police investigator local to the area in which the murders have taken place, who resents not only Bone’s superior rank but his affiliation with the Met.
Unfortunately, the series rather peters out for my tastes after this point, though fans will like the subsequent two books, I’m sure! As with Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries, Susannah Stacey’s books do form a loose series in that the characters change and grow, and subsequent stories mention previous ones in passing, but they can be read in any order–I picked it up mid-series and Bone Idle made sense to me. They’re a bit messier and, well, ickier than some of the other cozies I’ve read, such as the Hannah Swensen and Cleo Coyle series–bodies bleed and emotions become entangled–but not as grisly as many police procedurals. I’ve found them all quite enjoyable, but then I prefer series which allow the protagonists to change noticeably over time.