The Isle of Bute is a calm and quiet sort of place, the sort of place where time seems to have stood still for the last half century or so. That's not a criticism: for many visitors its mid twentieth century feel is very much part of the attraction of this lovely island. Bute somehow seems simpler and more innocent than many other parts of Scotland, a place where people can catch the occasional glimpse of their long lost youth, and of a long gone world.
"Grave Matters at St Blane's" is the fifth book in Myra Duffy's "Isle of Bute Mystery Series". Glasgow-based writer Alison Cameron returns to Bute to write a visitor guide for a theme park being built in the south of the island around the historical story of St Blane and close to the ruins of St Blane's Church. Though she has doubts about the viability of such an oddly-themed visitor attraction located on a relatively small island, Alison needs the work, so books into Bute's answer to Fawlty Towers and gets to work. But all is not well. The man managing the project, who recruited Alison by email, is nowhere to be found, and local opposition to the project is vociferous and growing. The stand-in project manager seems to feel that team meetings and management-speak deserve a higher priority than actual archaeological investigation or building work, and it rapidly becomes clear that the project stands no chance of meeting its intended opening date. Meanwhile, Alison has troubles of her own. She is concerned that she is drifting apart from her husband, and worried about what it is that her eldest daughter has come all the way to Bute to tell her, and then doesn't.
And then the first body turns up... The author describes her fiction as "cosy crime", which turns out to be the sort of genteel crime you might expect to find happening around Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, or in the fictional English county of Midsomer. Her style suits the slightly "country house" atmosphere of Bute perfectly, and the story is both nicely paced and very well written. As the book draws to a close, it becomes clear just how dangerous a place the author's version of Bute can be, and the conclusion is satisfying and follows some artful twists and turns. A thoroughly engaging and entertaining read that keeps you turning the pages to the end.