During COVID, like many people, I was zooming my way through life. After a day of looking at a computer screen, my eyes needed a rest. Rather than reading, I found listening to audiobooks was an excellent alternative for enjoying my favorite titles. And at the end of long days when sleep can often be elusive, I set the timer on my reader and listened to an audiobook as I drifted off to peaceful sleep.
That’s why I called this blog “What I’m Listening To.” All the series listed below are available in print, but you might want to try the audio version.
The Lady Hardcastle Mystery Series
by TE Kinsey, Read by Elizabeth Knowelden
In the opening book (A quiet Life in the Country), we meet Lady Emily Hardcastle (Lady H). After many adventures, she decides to leave London in 1908 with her maid Florence (Flo) Armstrong for the quiet of country life in Gloucestershire in the village of Littleton Cotterell.
On their first walk, as they enjoy the beautiful landscape surrounding their village, they discover a body hanging from a tree. The local police are anxious to solve the crime and make a quick arrest. But Lady H is sure they’ve arrested the wrong person. She brings her crime-solving skills to the case and starts making inquiries.
Flo has skills of her own, including precision knife throwing learned from her circus family, kicks that disarm assailants taught to her by a monk, and a mean right hook.
As they set out to solve the crime, they need to learn more about the villagers. One of Lady H’s sources of village information is Lady Gertie Farley-Stroud, who knew Emily’s mother. Gertie lives with her husband, Lord Hector, the local landowner of The Grange. Flo relies on her friend Daisy who works at the local pub, The Dog and Duck, for her village gossip.
These were Edwardian times, and there were social rules to follow. Lady H ignores one of them and treats Flo as an equal. Flo eats with Lady H and often accompanies her to social functions. However, her title remains Lady’s Maid versus Companion. This title allows her to snoop “below stairs” and interact with other servants from various wealthy families. The servants discuss information about the homeowners and their activities, which often provide clues.
With each additional book, we learn more about Lady Hardcastle. After the murder of her husband in Shanghai, Lady H and Flo have to escape through China. Her husband worked for the Foreign Service, and the Chinese suspected him of being a spy. In a later book, we learn Lady H was the actual spy. Her brother Harry also works for the Foreign Service and asks for his sister’s help with several cases.
The book provides lots of entertainment in the banter between Lady H and Flo, like when Lady H refers to Flo as “tiny servant person” and Flo calls Lady H “aging employer.” Aside from the lighthearted approach, don’t be fooled. There is a good solid mystery that needs solving.
The narrator’s skill makes an audiobook enjoyable, and Elizabeth Knowelden brings these books to life.
A Quiet Life in the Country (1)
In the Market for Murder (2)
Death Around the Bend (3)
A Picture of Murder (4)
The Burning Issue of the Day (5)
Death Beside the Seaside (6)
The Fatal Flying Affair (7)
Rotten to the Core (8)
Bunburry-A Cosy Mystery Series
by Helena Marchmont, Read by Nathaniel Parker
We first meet our main character, Alfie McAlister, in Murder at The Mousetrap. He has left London to recover from the loss of his girlfriend. As fate would have it, he has inherited a cottage in Bunburry and a snappy classic blue Jaguar from his late Aunt Augusta Lytton.
He spent summers and holidays in Bunburry with his grandparents. After they are tragically killed in an auto accident, he has not been back. Now, his new cottage provides the perfect escape. In addition to the material rewards, Aunt Augusta’s past provides another mystery for Alfie to solve.
In Bunburry, Alfie meets two elderly friends of Aunt Augusta. Marge Redwood and Liz Hopkins are the executors of his aunt’s estate. The friends who live together have a business of making “the best fudge in the Cotswolds.” After working with Alfie to solve their first crime, the three form the “Bunburry triangle,” known to the villagers as the local crime-solving team.
When Alfie left London, he also left behind his best friend Oscar de Linnet, who fashions his personality after Oscar Wilde. Alfie wonders if his friend is not a reincarnation of the famous author, especially when he compliments his stylish wardrobe with a green carnation just like Mr. Wilde.
And Helen Marchmont treats the reader to Oscar Wilde quotes in each book. The first quote applies to Alfie’s move to Bunburry. “Anybody can be good in the country. There are no temptations there.” There may not be temptations, but there seems to be plenty of murders for Alfie and the ladies to solve.
While Oscar prefers London to the country, Alfie keeps him informed of village life, the people, and the current crime he is solving. Bunburry village life also has its share of delightful characters.
In addition to Liz and Marge, we have Marge’s niece Police Constable Emily Hollis. The ladies secretly hope that Emily and Alfie will eventually get together. There is Police Sergeant Wilson who treats Emily shamefully but loathes Alfie even more.
William, his mother, Edith, and his wife, Carlotta, manage the local pub, which is a source of good food, village information, and gossip.
Betty Thorndike, daughter of a famous fashion model, is a green activist and a minor love interest for Alfie. He works to clear her of murder in a Taste for Murder.
Debbie Crawshaw, who owns Deb’s Beauty Salon, needs help when a wealthy customer is discovered dead in the locked salon in Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Bunburry vicar, Philip Brown, must explain a mysterious stranger and his silence when accused of murder in Sinners and Saints.
In Deadlier than Fiction, Alfie enjoys volunteering in the Bunburry community library. The library is home away from home for eleven-year-old Noah, an Agatha Christie fan who sees murder around every corner but also has an uncanny ability to spot clues.
We meet two new characters, Tara Davies and Sumi Chong, who are refurbishing a local mansion into an upscale hotel in Murder at the Magnolia Inn, to mention a few characters and plots.
After a featured role in a particular story, many characters continue to weave in and out of other adventures.
And if the murders don’t provide enough intrigue, there’s a subplot as Alfie searches to learn more about the father who abandoned him and his mother. In Lost and Found, the story takes a new path as Alfie discovers more information about his past.
Nathaniel Parker, whom many mystery fans will recognize as Inspector Lynley from the PBS series, does a beautiful job narrating the books.
- Murder at the Mousetrap (2018)
- A Murderous Ride (2018)
- A Taste of Murder (2018)
- Death of a Ladies’ Man (2019)
- Drop Dead, Gorgeous (2019
- Murder in High Places (2019)
- Sweet Revenge (2020)
- Sheep Secrets (2020)
- Deadlier than Fiction (2020)
- Sinners and Saints (2021)
- Murder at the Magnolia Inn (2021)
- Poison Ivy (2021)
- Lost and Found (2022)
- When Night Falls (2022)
Cherringham- A Cozy Crime Series
By Neil Richards and Matthew Costello, Read by Neil Dudgeon
Jack Brennan is a retired ex-cop from New York, seeking a simple life in Cherringham, living on a Dutch barge called the Grey Goose on the river Thames. Sarah Edwards is a single mom raising two children, Chloe and Daniel. She has returned to her home village and started a web design business. But their lives are anything but quiet as the two team up to solve mysteries in this sleepy English village.
This unusual duo combines Jack’s old-school professional police work with Sarah’s amateur sleuthing using her internet skills.
They first meet when the body of one of Sarah’s friends is discovered in the river, and her death is ruled an accident. Sarah doesn’t believe it and starts to ask questions of potential witnesses, including Jack. Initially, Jack is not interested in helping, but soon his police instincts kick in, and he joins forces with Sarah, and the partnership begins.
Amazing how many crimes occur in this small English village to keep our sleuths engaged. And whether they are raising a pint at the local pub, The Ploughman, or having a fancy dinner at the Spotted Pig, they are often faced with interviewing their neighbors and friends as they uncover clues and look for the solution to the crime.
As the series progresses, Jack and Sarah have established their reputation as competent crime solvers. Now the villagers seek them out to solve problems. Even the local police constable has come to recognize they are an asset in helping him close cases.
Although Sarah is raising two children and could use the additional dollars, the couple does not charge a fee. Based on the client’s circumstances, they might suggest contributing to a charity that needs some financial help.
Listeners will recognize the narrator, Neil Dudgeon, who plays John Barnaby on the popular Midsomer Murder Series. He has the perfect voice for charming the listeners of the Cherringham series.
Jack is an American, Sarah is English in the stories, and the co-authors bring the same experience to the stories. Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (living in the US) have been writing together since the mid-’90s.
For a list of the over forty Cherringham titles, check the Word Search Puzzle in another blog.
Note: Both the Bunburry and the Cherringham series books are usually under 20 chapters. It makes it easy to complete the book within a few sessions.
Beryl and Edwina Mysteries
By Jessica Ellicott, Read by Barbara Rosenblatt
This is my favorite audiobook series from the ones I recommend in this blog.
Edwina has lived comfortably in the village of Walmsley Parva for over three decades. But due to taxes after her mother’s death and changes in investment income, Edwina finds herself in a difficult financial situation. She decides one solution is to rent a room.
She can’t be happier when her old school chum and American adventuress, Beryl, appears at her home, The Beeches, and announces she would like to be her roommate.
To help Edwina save face with the local merchants about overdue accounts, Beryl implies that Edwina has requested her presence to help solve a case. Soon after Beryl’s comment, there is a murder, and the ladies discover they’re good at finding clues and solving the murder.
After their first case, they begin a business as Private Inquiry Agents. Local constable Doris Gibbs doesn’t initially welcome their interference, but she begins to respect their skill as more cases are solved.
In addition to Beryl and Edwina, the stories have many interesting characters, including their elderly gardener Simpkins. He starts as a part-time gardener and ends up as a silent partner in the business when he unexpectedly inherits a fortune.
Beryl Helliwell and Edwina Davenport are the odd couple of the 1920s. I enjoy the banter between them as they approach situations from the British and American perspectives.
Throughout the books, the reader gets glimpses of the ladies’ early days together and their current likes and dislikes. Beryl arrives in a sporty red car that she won in a card game and loves to take “the old bus” for a good country run that includes pushing the speed limit. Although Edwina eventually learns to drive, she prefers walking or riding her bicycle around the village.
When a challenging situation arises, Edwina turns to a cup of strong tea while Beryl reaches for the cocktail shaker. In another incident, Beryl dons old clothes to help the housekeeper do the annual housecleaning. Edwina must intercede and soothe the feelings of the housekeeper, who sees the offer of help from Beryl as an insult to her ability to perform her duties. Fortunately, the ladies have a new case to solve, and Edwina and Beryl leave the housekeeper to her tasks while they do what they do best — solve murders.
It is good fun to see the prim and proper Edwina, the adventuress, and boisterous Beryl interact with each other and English customs. And there seem to be multiple murders and cases for the ladies to solve in the idyllic English countryside.
Another reason I enjoyed listening to the Edwina and Beryl series is the narrator, Barbara Rosenblatt. She is a delightful talent whose many voices bring the characters to life.
- Murder in an English Village (2017)
- Murder Flies the Coop (2018)
- Murder Cuts the Mustard (2019)
- Murder Comes to Call (2020)
- Murder in an English Glade (2021)
- Murder Through the English Post (2022)
And I hope there are many more to come in this series.