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Cold in the Earth by Aline Templeton

DI Marjory Fleming… a character I’ve learned to love

Aline Templeton’s DI Marjory Fleming mystery series has been on my radar for four years, ever since one of my favorite mystery writers, Louise Penny, recommended it on her blog.

Alas, my library didn’t carry the books, so I placed a sticky note in my “authors to read” file to remind myself about this new author to try… someday.

Well, I was between books last year… slowly climbing up the library’s reserve list for Deborah Harkness‘ new novel, and went browsing through my to-read file looking for ideas.

And there was the sticky note saying “Aline Templeton – good author- per Louise Penny – DI Marjory Fleming.”

My library still didn’t have the books so I checked on Amazon and found ALL of the DI Fleming thrillers just waiting to be downloaded to my Kindle. Of course, I started with book 1 – Cold in the Earth – and I’m so glad I did. What a terrific introduction to a mystery series that is already a cut above most others in the field.

Here’s my review of the first book… and I know already that I’ll be following DI Marjory Fleming for the long run.

The main character, Detective Inspector Marjory Fleming, is a tall, athletic woman who is married to a sheep farmer in the Galloway, Scotland area. Fleming’s staff call her “Big Marge” when she’s not in hearing distance. Marjory and Bill have what appears to be a very strong marriage… until an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease threatens their way of life.

Bill follows the slaughtering of his neighbors’ cattle and sheep as officials attempt to halt the spread of this dreaded animal virus. And the disease keeps coming closer and closer until Marjory and the kids must leave the farm or face an indefinite quarantine keeping them away from job and school. Bill is left on his own to cope with angry neighbors and his own fears about their livelihood… not to mention the possible killing of his beloved sheep.

At the same time that the future of their farm is in jeopardy, DI Fleming finds herself heading up her first murder investigation. It appears that the body of a young woman found on the Mason farm has been gored to death… through the heart. And the Masons happened to own a bull called “Satan,” wild, uncontrollable and a possible murder suspect.

 

[Image of Pamplona statue by Xauxa HÃ¥kan Svensson via Wikimedia Commons]

Image of Pamplona statue by Xauxa Hakan Svensson

A murder mystery with twists and turns

As Marjory begins to unravel the intricate threads of the murder mystery, we learn firsthand about the highly bizarre behaviors of the Mason family. Central to the plot is a psychologist named Laura who has arrived in Galloway to learn more about the whereabouts of her missing sister. Laura’s counseling experience helps us, as readers, get a glimpse into the dysfunctional minds of the Mason family.

The book doesn’t skimp on details, either. I liked the way the story line wove “tough” and somewhat offbeat subjects into a murder mystery. The story begins with a reminiscence of running-the-bulls in Pamplona, then ties in Laura’s sister, foot-and-mouth disease, the plight of animal farmers and “bull” psychology very neatly into the eventual outcome. In fact, the photo of the Pamplona statue that I use in the post depicts the powerful energy of the bulls in the story.

Templeton’s writing is superb. Her ability to bring characters alive on the page is masterful. And I love stories where I learn new things. The whole bull theme is very cool. Foot-and-mouth I experienced firsthand, when I spent the winter of 1967-68 in England. I wasn’t a vegetarian then, but I might as well have been for the absence of meat on the table and in the markets.

If you are a mystery book fan like I am and enjoy a “meaty” read (no serial killers, thank goodness), I think you’ll enjoy DI Marjory Fleming and her crew. The first few Kindle books in the series are only $2.99 each. I’m hooked and already waiting for book 10.

 

DI Marjory Fleming Books Listed in Order

  1. Cold in the Earth
  2. The Darkness and the Deep
    The fishing industry is going belly-up, causing local fishermen to move into drugs transport via the waterways. Aline Templeton puts you inside the mind of DI Fleming and also the community in which the crime takes place. You feel the anguish of the people involved and get a good understanding of the complex situation which the police are trying to unravel.
  3. Lying Dead
    In book 3 of the series, Marjory’s investigative team is stretched to the limits, there are so many possible villains. It turns out that a woman found bludgeoned on a mountainside had prior relationships with many of the locals, including one of DI Fleming’s own detectives. What I especially like about these mysteries is Templeton’s method of letting the reader follow each detective’s logic (and intuition). We can “hear” Marjory mentally weigh the pros and cons of the possibilities. I’ve got sucked in to every story so far.
  4. Lamb to the Slaughter
  5. Dead in the Water
  6. Cradle to Grave
  7. Evil for Evil
  8. Bad Blood
  9. The Third Sin

 

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