Rating: 3.5* of fiveThe Book Description: The first book in the delightful British cozy mystery series featuring Mrs. Sheila Malory, a plain-spoken widow residing in the little seaside town of Taviscombe, England. When pretty but avaricious Lee Montgomery disappears, her fiancé Charles Richardson (an old flame of Mrs. M's) enlists Mrs. Malory's help. The dauntless Mrs. Malory soon suspects the worst. Little does she realize the terrible secrets her investigation will reveal....Or this superior jacket copy from the UK reprint of the book: Everyone knows that impertinent Lee Montgomery is marrying Charles Richardson for his money. After Lee vanishes, Charles' friends breathe a sigh of relief. But Charles loves his pretty fiancée and is determined to get her back. He enlists the talents of Mrs. Sheila Malory, whose pastimes include reading nineteenth-century novels and ferreting out the truth. Mrs. Malory, a reluctant amateur detective, is soon convinced that Lee has been the victim of foul play. The residents of the sleepy seaside village of Taviscombe, England, are about to discover just how difficult it is to keep their terrible secrets with Mrs. Malory on the case.My Review: This is a very good debut mystery, and a pleasure to read. Imperfect, of course, in that it feels a bit rushed, and some characterizations get slighted, but better that than the Dreaded Book Bloat that seems to afflict so many writers in the 21st century. "Why use one word for gore when fifty-six will do? Oh, split them between gore and sex? Naaah, sixty-eight words about sex. Emotions? Not unless it's a woman pining for/plotting revenge on an abusive man!"*snore*So here is Mrs. Malory, a widowed Marple-esque unthreatening Everylady of A Certain Age ("fifty-four, if I'm honest," she says charmingly) owned by a Siamese named Foff and a Westy named Tris, mother of an Oxford student, and lifelong resident of a seaside village that's so much like Jessica Fletcher's Cabot's Cove, Maine, that I raised my eyebrows into my hairline. As this now resides east of my ears, this is no mean feat.I love moments in the book such as her reunion with her girlhood crush-object, her older brother's boarding school chum. Holt writes a short vignette of Mrs. M's girlish moment of Rapture as this older, handsome god grabs her for the final dance at the Hunt Ball, a memory she has while sitting in a tatty but clean cottage lounge across from the sixty-year-old wreckage of that beautiful boy. It is so moving, and so very much the way a person of this vintage feels and thinks (well, *I* do and so do most of my friends), and says volumes about the sleuth and the course of the series.Imagine a mystery series set in Barestshire, written by Angela Thirkell's granddaughter, and there you have the affect of the series. Its effect on me was to cause me to reserve the next three books.