Marcia Talley has created an interesting character in Hannah Ives. She's a woman of a certain age (as they say), happily married, curious and resourceful. She is not a detective, however, and not a former cop, and I was particularly interested in how Talley, in All Things Undying. was able to create a plausible and satisfying murder mystery with virtually no police involvement. In this ninth Hannah Ives mystery, Hannah and her husband Paul are vacationing for three weeks in Dartmouth, Devon, England. They have good friends locally so they are more than tourists, less than residents.
The action begins when a stranger stops Hannah on the street to give her a message from her long-dead mother. The medium is an American medium Susan Parker, host of a popular UK television show. "Your mother's apologizing. She says she's sorry for not being around when you needed her." Hannah is half-convinced by Susan's recital (and Paul is a thoroughgoing skeptic), and agrees to a private reading the morning after a live performance with audience participation. Before this can take place, however, a hit-and-run driver deliberately runs down and kills Susan. That's Mystery Number One.
Mystery Number Two is what happened locally in 1944. The US Military cleared several square miles of coastline to practice the Normandy landings. Villages were emptied, farmers had to leave their farms. On April 28, 1944, German subs torpedoed two LSTs each carrying more than a thousand men; hundreds of GIs died and not all the bodies washed ashore. An American woman, born shortly after her father had been killed, has come to Dartmouth to find his remains. If Susan Parker can receive messages from the dead, perhaps the dead father will tell her what happened.
So Talley combines an historic tragedy with local culture, the supernatural (or is it) with actual death. And Hannah is in the middle of it all: "There I was, staring through the window of Mullin's Bakery at plain, ordinary everyday pork pasties while getting messages from my dead mother concerning my father's sex life."
Talley does not have to switch to another point of view to convey information to the reader. She is also able to write dialogue that sounds English without funny spellings; for example, " . . . the house is a tip" . . . "you'll need some wellies" . . . "my solicitor think that since it's a cash deal, and there's no chain of sales, we can go to completion on the same day."
All Things Undying is satisfying on several levels. Hannah is able to tell the entire story in her own words. The book skillfully and convincingly weaves together actual history with plausible mystery. The murderer has good reasons for the killing. The issue of whether the dead can communicate somehow with the living is left open. And the scenes of Dartmouth made me want to make a reservation in one of the local B&Bs.