“The Prime of Ms Dolly Greene” by E. V. Harte
This was a review copy kindly provided by the publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Righty ho, let’s get straight down to business shall we? What did I think of this book?
Well, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I found it to be a delightful and divertingly easy tale with which to spend an evening or two.
I say “divertingly easy” with no disrespect intended as I thought this was a cracking read. I mention it simply because my reads prior to this one were gritty, dark and violent crime novels. Indeed the book I had finished on the morning of picking up “Dolly” was Stephen King’s “IT”. And, if you have the joy of reading “IT”, you will know that it is quite dark, somewhat lengthy and is the size of a small loaf of unsliced bread, albeit “IT” is somewhat heavier than a loaf.
As much as I enjoyed “The Prime of Ms Dolly Greene”, I must confess to one or two pre-conceptions ahead of reading.
Having read, and hugely enjoyed, many of the Agatha Raisin mysteries by M. C. Beaton, I assumed that this, too, would be a very similar read. Indeed, this book does share similar traits with the Raisin series. Namely, it does have a single, middle aged woman, Dolly, as the central protagonist around which a cast of characters interact. Dolly is a woman to whom life has dealt a poor hand of cards (pardon the pun) and, like Agatha in the Raisin series, she is a determined and resourceful woman. Dolly is quirky, impetuous, loyal, loveable, ditzy and enjoyable. She is feisty, fun and fabulous. I really liked Dolly. I liked her a lot.
Similar to the M. C. Beaton books, E. V. Harte has surrounded Dolly with an assortment of characters to assist in her investigations. There is Pippa, her assertive and independent daughter and an assortment of, quite simply, madcap neighbours and bonkers acquaintances. There is also the hint of potential romance in a “will they/won’t they” liaison between Dolly and Raff, the good looking, heroic policeman. (I for one hope they do!)
Also, whilst “The Prime of Ms Dolly Greene” is set is in London, rather than Agatha’s Cotswolds, this tale has still has a very a cosy English setting. The names Harte chooses for locations resonate with cheeriness. I especially liked the delightfully named Tinderbox Lane.
So far, I have mentioned are all very good things!
My main preconception and, indeed doubt, when reading the blurb on the back cover concerned the tarot reading aspect of our heroine. I will confess to being (rightly or wrongly – you say tomato, I say tomato etc), a tad sceptical of such things. Well, more than a tad. Extremely sceptical. Tarot cards, fortune telling, horoscopes, even massages and reiki, do not interest me at all. If I am absolutely honest I will admit to thinking these things somewhat daft and pointless. So, I was worried about this book. I feared I would simply become annoyed and frustrated reading a novel which featured tarot as a central element.
HOWEVER, this book did not overdo the tarot card details. In fact, I think they were sprinkled with a very light touch – akin to a pinch of seasoning in a recipe, too much and it overpowers the dish but just enough and it enhances the flavour enormously. I think the author wove the tarot details deftly and delicately into the plot. In doing so, E. V. Harte managed to keep this grumpy old sceptic happily engaged throughout.
I was surprised by one aspect of this book, though. Whereas the Agatha books are quite genteel – murders, scandals, intrigues and revenge vendettas notwithstanding – Dolly’s world is quite filthy! There are plenty of sweary bits and sexual references which add an extra layer of enjoyment to proceedings. If you are at all familiar with Beaton’s work, just imagine Agatha and Co having a good session on the Jack Daniels and getting a little lairy. All good clean stuff – well almost!
I would heartily recommend this to anyone seeking an enjoyable and welcoming read. This is a satisfyingly fabulous romp with an array of oddball and wonderfully delicious characters. Like Raff, I’m more than a touch smitten with Ms Greene.
I do hope this becomes a series as think Ms Greene has yet to hit her prime and I have great hopes for her in future books.
Who knows, maybe the cards can tell us?