When I first saw the cover I thought, “I have to read this book.”
Liz Hedgecock, author of Murder at the Playgroup, asked if I would like to receive a review copy. I said, “Okay, okay, stop twisting my arm.”
Joking aside, they tell you not to judge a book by its cover. But since I was one of many people who voted for this cover that would be a superfluous argument. I had read snippets of this story and I was like a duck at the pond, drawn to the toddler with a slice of bread in his hands.
Pippa Parker takes her place among good company. I have no doubt she will be on the same bookshelves as Miss Marple, Agatha Raisin, Rosemary and Thyme and a host of other women sleuths who have called the cozy villages of England their home. But Pippa stands apart from them in that she is also mother to an adorable toddler, with another one on the way.
Sure, there are female leads in detective stories that are married or have children. But usually those children are school aged, college, or already adults living on their own. And it’s rare to have the children actually having enough of an impact on the main character that you know they’re not just background noise. Little Freddie is a force of nature unto himself, with the powers of beans and toast at his command and the uncanny ability that all toddlers have to need the bathroom at the worst possible time. Although it is hard at times to gauge just how old Freddie is supposed to be, going on the varying levels of speech and awareness. But I know that children develop differently, and I personally know children who can go from sounding very much like they’re in the early stages of speech, to suddenly dropping clear concise sentences. Children are always a challenge to portray in literature, even when actual parents are writing the story. It’s going to be down to the reader to decide how believable Freddie is. For my part I can say that his characterization is consistent enough to be plausible.
While her husband wages war in the boardroom, Pippa is settling into the town where he grew up but she barely knows anyone. The monotony is broken when she visits the local playgroup and meets with the other parents of Freddie’s future playmates. As if being weeks away from giving birth isn’t bad enough, a murder takes place at, to no one’s surprise, the playgroup.
It’s always a challenge to keep the reader from guessing who the killer is and Liz does a great job of keeping you in the dark until late in the story. However it wasn’t too hard to guess who the victim was going to be. As the first book in the series that takes place in the real world, there are so many ways to set up the main plot of a cozy murder mystery that won’t make the reader roll their eyes. My eyes never rolled once. I have no doubt that Pippa Parker, her family, Marge, Lila, and a retired cop turned librarian will find their places in the hearts of readers.
My only regret was that I didn’t write this review a couple of days earlier for Mother’s Day.