Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Capable of Murder by Brian Kavanagh

44. Capable of Murder - first in the Belinda Lawrence series
by Brian Kavanagh
mystery, 2001
Kindle book - 25
finished, 5/27/11

There is an excellent definition of just what a cozy mystery is here. Capable of Murder fits most of the criteria. I tend to shy away from cozies in general. Too often in my reading experience, the amateur sleuth is a woman who seems to be the modern equivalent of the old 'damsel in distress.' Belinda, the heroine of this book drove me crazy in the way she took chances and trusted people she didn't even know. I never understand why such women walk into situations that any normal thinking person would run a mile from.

Belinda Lawrence is a native Australian who moved to England several years ago. The book begins with Belinda reading a letter which just arrived from her Great-aunt Jane who lives in a small village outside of Bath.
Dear Belinda,
I would appreciate it if you would come down to the cottage this weekend. I have something of interest for you.
Yours, Jane Lawrence
Belinda hasn't visited her aunt except for when she first arrived in England. She didn't feel welcomed that first time and since then the two have communicated only through Christmas cards. So, this note intrigues Belinda, and she takes some time off work to go visit. On the train going down she has an encounter with a stranger, and he accidentally spills coffee on her. I thought her response was cruel and uncalled for:
You clumsy oaf, look what you've done.
And when he tries to remedy the mess, she says:
Stop that. You're making it worse. Why did you have to sit next to me, when you had the whole train to choose from?
Not the best introduction to a new heroine, is it? I thought her just as cranky as her relative presumably was. When she arrives at the cottage, she finds the garden untended and unwelcoming. A rat scurries past her. And the rain and thunder only add to the unsettling feeling Belinda has. She manages to make her way to the door, and after getting no response to her knocking and her calls to her aunt, she finds the door is unlocked. While she stands wondering whether to go in or not, a large bird lands in a nearby tree with its prey dripping blood down on the terrace stone. Quite a gothic scene for a cozy mystery. Belinda's quick temper is visible again when she says to herself that she wishes she had never come, 'while silently cursing her great-aunt.' She's angry because the woman invited her and then went away. This reader was thinking, maybe Great-aunt Jane just went out for some milk.

Well, of course she didn't go away and she wasn't doing an errand. Jane Lawrence is dead and has been for over a week. In this little village of only a few houses, no one had checked in on her in that time. The police surmise that she tripped on the stairs.

On her way home to London, Belinda notices that the date on the letter from her aunt is after Jane had died. And so the mystery begins. When she goes back for the funeral and meets with the lawyer she finds herself the beneficiary of quite an inheritance - a lot of money and the house. She moves in which I would never do.
It seemed to her that the light from the long room windows faded unnaturally into blackness so dense that the staircase vanished into a menacing and all-embracing emptiness.
I think there is an audience for this book, and this series. I've read some glowing reviews. But I'm not that audience. I couldn't seem to get over Belinda's personality and actions. I didn't care for the setting or the characters, though I did enjoy the historical connections with Capability Brown, the English landscape architect.

You may read more about the books here. Please don't be swayed too much by my response. As I noted, I am sure many people would thoroughly enjoy Capable of Murder, and would want to go on to the next books in the series.


  1. Hi, Nan --

    The fact that Belinda annoyed you is good enough for me! So many books, so little time!

    By the way, as a continuation of the comments on Joanna Trollope's book -- There's a wonderful article in the new July issue of O, the Oprah magazine, by Martha Beck, that touches on all the issues raised by Trollope in her book. Can't speak for everyone of course, but I found it both interesting and helpful.

    Thanks for the review, Canadian Chickadee

  2. Dear Nan, This made me smile.
    This is why I don't like to read fiction! So many times the characters are so doggone mean and unpleasant, why would I want to read any further into the book? (Oftentimes, I will read a book review and the characters are called "edgy". Oh please, I think to myself, is that what you call it these days?)
    "This is a book which should not be tossed aside lightly, it should be thrown with great force". Love this quote which also makes me smile.

  3. If I can not relate to the main character in some way, or if I don't like them, then I do not enjoy the book as a whole, no matter how clever, funny, witty or elegantly it is written and plotted. And in this case, I guess I would not like Belinda at all. People don't (or at least they shouldn't) call a stranger a "clumsy oaf" simply because they accidentally spill some coffee over them, or curse their aunts.

  4. Nan,

    If you look at a blog called bunny mummy, you will see some great photos of flowers, even POPPIES!
    (She is from Australia).

  5. First of all, I'm so happy to see the peonies. I love them so much but haven't seen a one here in northern California. I will have to stare at your header.

    Second, I like the Cozy Mystery link you gave us. I started to read your post, went to that link and found myself still at it 30 minutes late. I had to bookmark it because I barely started exploring. Thanks for sharing.

    Third, I don't think this book is for me. I appreciate your honest review. I don't like rude people, even if they are fictitious. Also, it's a bit too dark for my taste. Hope your current read is taking you to a more pleasant place.

  6. You know, not every book is for every reader. I know that you understand what I'm saying. :-)

    However, that being said, this seems like more of a gothic than a cozy. Also, I find it interesting that it was written by a man. Not that men can't write cozies or write women characters, but I think sometimes there is a distance between the author and the characters. Hmmm...well, I'm sure you'll find other books more to your taste soon.

  7. I usually don't read any misteries,so I'm not sure as to how a cozy mystery is different from a ordinary mystery,but your post interested me about reading it! Taking my short attention span into consideration, maybe Jeffery Deaver can be my first English mystery book to read.LOL

  8. Thank you, Canadian Chickadee. I will try and find the magazine.
    Books are so very personal - it is quite possible you might like this book and series. I don't want to put anyone off the book. I rarely finish a book I don't care for, and then don't have to write about it. I did finish this which says something (but I don't know what!)

    Kay, I rarely read fiction with nasty characters- usually the only ones are in murder mysteries and they are killed of. :<) Yeah, I'm not wild for 'edgy' either.

    Beautifully said, Librarian.

    Kay, I will check it out. Thanks.

    Margot, my reading is almost always pleasing. This was an exception. As I noted to Canadian Chickadee, I usually don't finish books I don't like. Not sure why I stayed with this one - maybe I thought it would get better. Yes, it does have a darkness - not in the crime element so much as just the people and the house.

    Kay, I'm reading a book I love- Margaret Drabble's The Pattern in the Carpet. I think you're right that it feels more gothic than cozy. But that's the way I keep reading it described. Not a Mrs. Malory kind of cozy, that's for sure!

    Yoshi, I've not read JD, but I know he is quite popular. A little creepy for my taste. :<)

  9. Hi Nan,
    I came across your review of my book, Capable of Murder. I'm sorry that you didn't respond to Belinda. It is your right of course to feel the character is unpalatable; but I'm interested that you felt she was acting foolishly be being in situations that were dangerous. It is, after all, a murder mystery book and that scenario is common in the genre. Do you feel the same way about Agatha Raisin in M.C. Beaton's mysteries? For the other readers who feel they wouldn't like the book or the series based on your thoughts, well, I'd like to feel that they would make judgement themselves. They may find they like Belinda. Also, I don't believe the mystery is 'gothic' any more so than any cozy mystery in setting a mood. But, that's up to readers to decide. Either way, thanks for your thoughts. It's always good to get a response from readers who take the time to read the books.

  10. Brian, I really appreciate you coming by and leaving a comment. I tried really hard to make sure that anyone who read my book report would know that I am not a big fan of cozies, and also that your book had gotten good reviews, and that I was sure many people would enjoy it.
    I do actually feel the same way about Agatha R. I couldn't even get through the first book. I also have a hard time with Simon Brett's Fethering series. I probably should just give up cozies. They simply don't seem to be my type of reading.
    And I did make a point of telling people not to be swayed by my thoughts. I so rarely write anything negative about a book, usually because I don't finish ones I don't like. And I was propelled to finish this even though I was annoyed at the heroine. I should try the next in the series, shouldn't I?
    Thanks again for writing.

  11. Dear Nan,
    thanks for your response.I know what you mean about likes & dislikes and you were very fair in your review by making it clear that cozies were not your favourite. All that aside, I think your phots of the flowers spectacular. Wish I could retyr the favour, but my gardening days are behind me and space is limited. Still I try. :-)
    Best wishes.Brian

  12. Aren't you so nice to come back again, Brian. Thank you for your words. They really mean a lot to me.


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