A Spoonful of Murder

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Pub Date 17 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 05 Apr 2022

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‘Warm characters and wonderful writing… It’s steeped in Yorkshire like a mug of hot, strong tea… I loved it’ SJ Bennett, author of The Windsor Knot

Retirement can be murder…

Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.
But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.

By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.
The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.
But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…

Sit down with a cup of tea, a slice of cake and this perfectly witty, page-turning cosy crime novel. 

Readers love A Spoonful of Murder:

Poignant and relatable, I want these ladies as my friends!… I enjoyed it very much… Recommend’ NetGalley review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Quirky and down to earthDelightful’ NetGalley Review

A great cozy mystery… Quite the enjoyable ride… Wonderful’ NetGalley review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A cosy crime mystery but with added bite, and cake. Liz, Pat and Thelma are curious and inquisitive and you’ll warm towards them and their sometimes unpredictable ways of discovering clues’ NetGalley Review

‘Warm characters and wonderful writing… It’s steeped in Yorkshire like a mug of hot, strong tea… I loved it’ SJ Bennett, author of The Windsor Knot

Retirement can be murder…


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ISBN 9780008509620
PRICE $2.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 221 members

Featured Reviews

A very good debut novel. Three former primary school teachers run into an older colleague, Topsy Joy, at the garden center. They are dismayed at her apparent senility. To assuage their guilt and worry over their old friend, they take to visiting her in turn. Unfortunately she reveals some worrisome things, they find she has been conned out of her life savings of £475K, she also has a dodgy builder harassing her and claiming payment. Daughter KellyAnne is beside herself with worry for her mother’s future. Within a week, Topsy is dead. “A muddle over her pills” is KellyAnne’s explanation. Thelma, Liz, and Pat are not convinced and they start investigating.
Interspersed with vignettes of the three former teachers lives, we find Liz worried her bright son Liam will lose his place at Durham University and end up living in a trailer with a baby and his “Celtic poet” girlfriend. Thelma, childless worries who will look after her and her husband when they are old and infirm. And Pat worries about her grandson, obviously on the spectrum and not settled into primary school with the “5 star” teacher Mrs. Bell.
A sad and yet funny adventure as the three ladies trap the dodgy builder, solve the £475K theft, and find the killer. Poignant and relatable, I want these ladies as my friends!
A bit slow going at first, getting to grips with all the characters and the back stories, it is well worth pursuing. I enjoyed it very much. Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for this advance copy. Recommend.

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A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall is a great cozy mystery that takes a trio of retired educators and turns them into amateur sleuths…a murder/mystery novel that was quite the enjoyable ride.

I really enjoyed reading along as the three friends and retired school teachers work their way through an unintentional post-retirement position: amateur sleuths solving a murder/mystery plot involving an ex coworker. Not what they had planned…but stumbled into nevertheless.

I enjoyed learning the backstories between the three main characters: Liz, Pat, and Thelma. Learning how the characters have become how they are, and how they are currently connected gives then depth and a sense of realism. Each has their own issues, but getting to the bottom of a suspicious murder…well that takes precedence.

I enjoyed as they weeded through the suspects and solved the mystery. Maybe they will be able to solve additional crimes in future books? I would be interested in reading those as well.

4/5 stars

Thank you NG and Avon Books UK for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 3/17/22.

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Three retired schoolteachers enjoy coffee and cake each week at the Thirsk Garden Centre café. It’s a chance to relax and have a gentle gossip about their nearest and dearest. Until one morning when they meet an ex-colleague, Topsy, a woman who was so well put together when working, and who has failed terribly since the death of her husband. Her daughter, KellyAnne, is there to help but Liz, Pat and Thelma appreciate it must be difficult. However, by the following week, Topsy is dead. The three friends know that there’s more to their ex-friend’s death than meets the eye, and don’t believe it was natural or a byproduct of her recent onset confusion. So what do you do in that case? Well, accidentally get entangled in a murder, naturally, and work together to get justice – and resolution – for their deceased friend. This feels like a cosy crime mystery but with added bite, and cake. Liz, Pat and Thelma are curious and inquisitive and you’ll warm towards them and their sometimes unpredictable ways of discovering clues.

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This ARC was provided to me via Kindle by Avon Books UK and #NetGalley for my honest opinion. Opinions expressed are completely my own.

Wonderful debut! I look forward to many more from J. M. Hall.

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This is the story of three retired school teachers who meet for coffee once a week at their local garden centre and end up getting involved with solving a murder, the theft of £425K and a suspicious builder. Pat, Liz and Thelma are all upset by the death of their friend Topsy but certain things don’t make sense to them, Topsy thought someone wanted her dead and the three sleuths want to see if she was right.
There are some great moments in this book, I loved the Zumba Insanity class, I could definitely relate to that! I also like how the characters get their own chapters meaning we can have an insight in to their own personal stories and the back stories are beautifully written.
However, I did struggle when I started with this book though as it has a lot of characters being introduced throughout. There are the three main ones, then their partners and families, we then meet ex colleagues and ex pupils and their families, along with a lot of other people including cleaners, the over 60’s social group and even male strippers! I had to have a little who’s who written down next to me when I was reading to keep track. Don’t let that put you off though, the story itself is a delight to read touching on some very emotional subjects as well as a giggle or two.
I don’t think this will be the last we here of Pat Liz and Thelma.

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Cosy With An Edge…
When three retired teachers bump into an old colleague at a garden centre a catalogue of bizarre events ensues not least involving a death and, possibly, a murder. A cosy crime with an edge as the tragi-comic events unfold with a credible and well crafted cast, a keen sense of wry humour and of character and an entertaining, immersive storyline. Enjoyable reading.

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I absolutely loved this cosy mystery story. I really enjoyed how the characters had their own lives layered into the storyline, and how relatable they all were. The writing reads well and keeps you turning the pages. It's an easy read and perfect for these cold winter nights.

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Three retired school teachers enjoy their “coffee o’clock” sessions every Thursday at the Thirsk Garden Café center. Until one day, they bumped into a former colleague, Topsy Joy.

Next Thursday, they found out that Topsy was dead.

“Was she murdered?” or “Was it a tragic accident?”

For Pat, Liz and Thelma, they think the questions never quite feel resolved. It’s for them to find out what have really happened to Topsy.

It’s cute and charming to have elderly people teamed up to solve a crime. Although the beginning of the story is a slow-paced for me, I’m glad to be entertained by these three nosy retired teachers who have involved themselves in solving a mystery.

As the story progresses, I find it difficult to keep myself attentive in the story. Each chapter all throughout, there are new characters or code names introduced. It makes me confused who is who. Even if I take down notes of the important characters (and clues) to help myself solve the mystery, the author's writing style has managed to make me engaged in the story as I follow the journey of the main characters to reach the revelation. In the end, I have made myself extremely annoyed. The author has created a good villain that I will never like.

Overall, A Spoonful of Murder by JM Hall, is a cozy crime mystery about three people embracing their messes and finding justice for an ex-colleague’s unclear cause of death.

If you are looking for a crime adventure without those dark disturbing violence, this could be a good read for you.

Many thanks to @netgalley and Avon Books UK Publisher for providing me an e-ARC in exchange of honest feedback.

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A Spoonful of Murder by J M Hall

This book is a joy, I really really loved it.. I really liked the three ladies and I was invested in their lives.

Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their 'coffee o'clock' sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.

But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.

By the next Thursday, Topsy's dead.

At first it looks like a accidental death caused by the dementia that Topsy is suffering from but something is not sitting right with the 3 ladies and they start to making enquiries into Topsys life and her nearest and dearest.

It is about small close communities and everyone being connected and knowing everything about each other.

What I liked most was the juxtaposition of the absolute mundane routines of these ladies lives such as watching garden rescue, planning for the families dinner, making lists for a shopping trip with the extraordinary - trying to solve the murder.. life goes on even when murder is involved

I totally recommend this book, it is a contemporary murder mystery with 3 older protagonists who investigate murder while balancing their ordinary lives.

A five star read

#England #Mudermystery #cosy #modern #Aspoonfulofmurder #Netgalley

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There was something about the pace of this book that made me really appreciate it, not too fast or fancy or all. those. turns and twists you've sometimes got in a whodunnit. All three women were interesting characters with their human flaws and surprising actions. And how Liz made me smile with her intervention when it came to a certain wall. Very pleasant read!

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book.

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Set in the charming village of Thirsk, Yorkshire , when three retired primary school teachers, (Thelma, Pat and Liz), are faced with the suspicious death of a friend, Topsy, they reluctantly take up the task of uncovering the “ordinary evil” lurking beneath the unassuming facade of their quiet and comfortable neighborhood.

Written by a first-time (and ex-teacher) author, the friendship of the three main protagonists, built upon a shared history of tea, support and companionship nurtured on the worn chairs of their former staff room, is steeped with authenticity. How the male author manages to also nail the middle-aged female psyche is truly a marvel, with each of the three characters so well-crafted you would swear you have met them.

Thelma, the unofficial leader, outwardly strong and practical, can always “find the exact words the other two are fumbling for”. Childless, and married to a college professor, Teddy, Thelma fills her days with charity work - hiding a heartbreaking secret and a inner core as vulnerable and uncertain as her more emotive friends.

Pat, bright and attractive, the wife of Rod, (a builder), worries about her youngest, teenage son, Liam, the bodily trials of aging, and a generation raised in a world where the internet in all its trappings can clearly be seen to “sap the soul”.

Liz, a seasoned gardener, anxious grandmother to Jacob, life-long worrier with a sweet and sensitive conscience, is the heart-and-soul of the group, most likely to be on hand when someone is needed “to dispense tissues, wipes, and make gentle conversation”.

The plot is cozy and tricky, with just the right blend of “Miss Marple”, interesting and quirky characters, secrets, unexpected nuance, colorful cardigans, and of course, heaps of tea and warm companionship.

I loved this book and look forward to reading more from this wonderful (and talented) new author.

A great big thank you to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.

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Gripping and addictive.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the chance to read a digital arc in exchange for my feedback.

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A cozy wonderful mystery that feels like a nice hot cup of coffee and a blanket. As a lover of Miss Marple mysteries I felt very at home reading this wonderful book. The perfect blend of tricky and cozy, the plot was thoroughly enjoyable to read! I say grab a copy, fill up your mug and sit by the fire and nestle into this for a few hours, you wont be disappointed!
Thank you to Netgalley & AvonBooks for the ARC

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As the daughter of a retired primary school teacher, this cozy mystery about three retired teachers stumbling into - and solving - the murder of an old friend was both convincing and entertaining.

A Spoonful of Murder is a gentle mystery, full of wry observations on the lives of the locals but also deeper thoughts on family and ageing - and on dementia in particular. Liz, Pat and Thelma are twenty-first century Miss Marples with smartphones, investigating with the same sort of subtle questioning, and using of their knowledge of children and parents gained over years of teaching to see beyond what they're being told by their suspects.

In the end, for me, the mystery actually came in second to the personal dilemmas the sleuths were dealing with - real world problems for women who, by the end of the book, felt like real friends rather than fictional characters.

A brilliant debut and highly recommended.

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Oh how brilliant was this book?! I must have read it in about to servings as I just couldn't put it down. The old women where absolute dears and the book had great comical moments throughout. A really good murder mystery book, which I'm hoping there will be lots more to come.

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Thanks to NetGalley and Avon Books UK for this free digital book in exchange for an honest review! This book will be out 3/17/22.

This is a charming and enjoyable cozy mystery! It gave me the "Thursday Murder Club" vibes with the England setting, main characters of a certain age, and of course, murder. It took me a bit to really get into the story but I was invested by the end. If you have paid attention so far, I've become a huge fan of novels with main characters over 50.

The "sleuths" in this story all felt very real--they had insecurities, reservations about "investigating" and relatable pasts--Pat, Thelma, and Liz are all retired teachers which was fun. I can't say that I definitely felt attached to any particular character but I was interested in them throughout the story.

Also, the chapter titles were entertaining!

I would read another book by this author, particularly if there is another book with these characters!

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A treat of a read! J M Hall has written a fabulous, cozy, mystery story. When three retired school teachers bump into an ex colleague, Topsy, and her daughter, KellyAnne, during their weekly coffee and catch up at the local garden centre, a chain of events is started that ends up with Thelma, Liz and Pat investigating Topsy’s unexpected death…….. was it an accident? Was it murder? And if it was murder, who is the murderer? Along the way the trio uncover fraud, affairs, dodgy builders and family difficulties. A wonderful debut and I really hope that there is a second book for these fabulous ladies. Absolutely perfect for fans of Richard Osman! Highly recommended.

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I received this ARC via Netgalley and Avon Books UK, in return for an honest review. This is a cozy Yorkshire mystery that delves into the challenges of dementia and aging so be aware if those are trigger issues for readers. Three retired UK teachers meet weekly for tea and cake. At their latest meeting, they’re surprised when Topsy, a former colleague, and her daughter join them. Well, Topsy’s daughter leaves her with them while she goes shopping. When Topsy informs the three women that ‘they’re trying to kill me’, neither Thelma, Pat or Liz know quite what to make of her pronouncement. When Topsy dies, the three women start cautiously looking into the circumstances and soon are immersed in discovering the ‘ordinary evil’ in their hometown. This debut novel is well-written with some clever aspects, like the chapter titles. It does take a bit to get into the story but preserve as the ending is worth the effort.

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I loved this book so much
Three old work colleagues meet at a garden centre to catch up.
One day they catch up with another old friend, Topsy but she is not the same
When Topsy dies in slightly suspicious circumstances our three heroes begin to investigate.
This book is about growing older but it’s about finding confidence again
Great chapter titles and a clever plot

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This book follows ex colleagues Liz, Pat and Thelma as they meet up every Thursday to catch up on each other’s lives. One Thursday they bump into another one of the old colleagues, Topsy, and her daughter. It turns out that Topsy has been diagnosed with dementia that has been getting progressively worse since the death of her husband, and the only person in her life she has caring for her is her daughter. During this surprise encounter the girls are concerned for Topsy after she shares some insights into her life that aren’t quite right.

The girls decide to visit Topsy at her home to check up on her and see what exactly is going on, while there they discover that she has lost all of her life savings and has been a victim of fraud. When Topsy is found dead the girls know there is more to this than meets the eye. The girls take it upon themselves to investigate Topsy’s death and digging into what happened with the bank fraud and her death. So who is responsible for Topsy’s death? Does her daughter have something to do with it? You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out!

I really enjoyed this fun read, and I felt the pacing of the plot was okay for the length of the book and the amount of detail we’re given while reading. I was hooked right up until the end and I had many guesses as to who was responsible for Topsy’s death, and what was going on.

Thanks to NetGalley and Avon for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

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Lovely cosy mystery.

A Spoonful of Murder was a joy to read, perhaps a little slow to start but once things got going it whizzed past. Three retired primary school teachers bump into an old friend in the garden centre, she seems confused, and the next thing we know, she's dead.
A lovely romp succeeds with the three friends trying to work out what has happened. Fun lof twists and turns this is a great debut with some wonderful characters.

With thanks to the publisher and net galley for the opportunity to read and review.

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An enjoyable cosy crime with some brilliantly observed characters. I think all my primary school teachers were represented here. So good to see middle-aged women given the spotlight and the North East too. The turns of phrase brought many a smile to my face in what was a properly satisfying mystery.

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This book definitely fits the bill for the definition of a cozy mystery! In a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, the dynamic trip immediately regret running into Topsy and her over dramatic daughter. When they decide to check on her, things go from bad to worse, and they find themselves caught been doing right by Topsy and solving the case, or getting far away from the whole situation. It's a fun, quick read, that's perfect for an afternoon curled up by a fire!

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Really enjoyable mystery. Loved the three main characters, they felt very real. It was light mystery with a touch of darkness. Would definitely recommend. A quick exciting story. I Will pick up the next book in the serious.

Copy received via net gallery

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The book is very much in the style of a Richard Osman but that is not a bad thing. The sleuths, retired primary school teachers living in a small Yorkshire town, are likeable if a bit predictable as are parts of the plot. However it was a good easy read and hope it’s a holiday hit.
The author clearly worked the plot backwards and in order to get the characters to the place they needed to be there were one or two clumsy turns - one in particular that the sub plot turns on.
This style of writing does benefit from the details in the description- the cakes in the coffe shop, the shopping for dinner etc - so more not less would enrich the writing.
Overall easy enjoyable beach read.

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I love seeing books by former professors and teachers!!! and this one is NOT one to miss!

set in the outskirts of england, three school teachers are confronted with a suspicious death of their friend, and only they seem to be able to get to the bottom of it. it’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s an old-school clue type murder mystery!

the three main protagonists were super fun to read and so unique from one another that I felt as if I had been friends with them for ages!! thelma is strong and the natural born leader, pat is the worrier and the more practical of the bunch, and liz is the heart of the group and definitely appealed to me the most.

I found myself looking forward to each of their chapters equally (a bit unusual for me I know), and the conclusion was oh so satisfying!!

if you liked the maid, this is definitely one to be next on your list!!

thank you to netgalley and avon books for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book so much as this. As an older reader and retired teacher I felt completely at home with Pat, Liz and Thelma. I could picture their morning coffee sessions in the garden centre cafe so clearly, and I particularly empathised with Pat and her snug fitting tops! There are several injustices to be righted here, all against a beautiful North Yorkshire setting. I was so pleased to find a second book us on the way!

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Great debut novel from J M Hall, intriguing story line about three retired teachers, it lends itself to a series of books

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Honestly, cosy crime isn’t usually something I lean towards. With a notable exception of Richard Osman’s series, which is one of my favourites. However, I tend to prefer my crime fiction on the dark and gruesome side and I’m always really happy to return to that, even after Osman. ‘A Spoonful of Murder‘ tempted me with its delightful cover and title. Luckily for me, the inside was just as delightful and I would quite happily read more of it.

In ‘A Spoonful of Murder‘ we meet Liz, Pat and Thelma. Three retired schoolteachers who meet up with each other every Thursday (and there’s a completely believable reasoning behind why it has to be a Thursday) for cake, coffee and a chat about children and grandchildren. But then a former colleague is found dead and their weekly meetings turn a little something darker. Because Topsy may have died looking all peaceful and whatnot in her comfy chair, the three friends know deep down there’s a lot more to it than that. Now they just have to prove it.

These three ladies will capture your heart from the very beginning. All three are very different but they also compliment each other, and their friendship just works. Often as I was reading, I was thinking about how much fun it would be to pull up a chair and join them at their table for a wee cup and a natter. Not that retirement sounds like a bed of roses. Pat knows there’s something troubling her youngest son Liam but can’t figure out what it is, for Liz it is her grandson who’s causing worry, and Thelma may be childless but she has things going on in her head that aren’t easy to deal with.

Then Topsy dies and it’s not only the friends’ lives that are turned around because the story itself suddenly deals with a more complex societal issue with regards to the elderly and how they are taken advantage of. Especially those who are considered extremely frail, possibly suffering from dementia. Up pops an entire array of, quite frankly, despicable people who don’t even think twice in ripping off the vulnerable. This ranges from the builder who offers to do jobs that don’t need doing for a lot of money, to the seemingly helpful voice on the phone from “your bank” who wants to help move your hard-earned money, to tons and tons of junk mail promising all sorts of things. As Thelma often wonders, when there are no children, who will look after the senior citizen trying to navigate this minefield? Before you know it, your cosy crime story ends up being a lot more thought-provoking than you envisaged at the start.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. ‘A Spoonful of Murder‘ is oftentimes fabulously witty and I absolutely adored these characters, who managed to make me chuckle out loud. Watching them being pushed out of their comfort zone was quite entertaining and I think the author really managed to portray it wasn’t always easy for them. Sure they want to find out the truth about what happened to Topsy but there’s also this reluctance, this feeling that maybe they shouldn’t be getting involved in things they know nothing about.

I had a pretty good idea about what had happened to Topsy early on but there is something else surrounding the mystery of her death that left me with a list of suspects I was unable to narrow down. So, what started out as being completely bedazzled by a lovely cover actually ended up in a couple of hours of truly entertaining reading. I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with these lovely ladies and if they were ever to set out on another murder investigation, I’d quite happily join them on that mission. Grab yourself a cup of tea and a nice, warm blanket because if cosy crime is your thing, I think you will enjoy ‘A Spoonful of Murder‘ too.

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A Spoonful of Murder by JM Hall is described as being a cosy crime, a description I dislike intensely. For me it suggests tweeness and sentimentality. And that is not an apt description of this book. It's a clever look at human nature as much as a murder mystery.

Thelma, Liz and Pat are distressed when their former colleague Topsy is found dead. She had been living with dementia and her death appears to be the result of her own confusion. But as the three friends hear more about Topsy's life, they become less certain that her death is not suspicious...

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EXCERPT: Since they'd all been retired (Pat two years, Thelma and Liz four) it had to be said the weekends had somewhat lost that special quality - that snatched, hallowed glow. Truth be told, the days even held a certain . . . sameness - Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays - a sameness to be fought against with book groups and keep fit classes and stints in the charity shop. Fought against, but not admitted to.

Hence coffee o'clock every Thursday in the café at Thirsk Garden Centre (good parking, well away from tourists).

And if it hadn't been a Thursday . . . if it hadn't been the garden centre cafe . . . they wouldn't have met Topsy and KellyAnne and, crucially, Thelma wouldn't have come across Topsy crying in the toilets, which they all agreed was really the start of things.

ABOUT 'A SPOONFUL OF MURDER': Retirement can be murder…

Every Thursday, three retired school teachers have their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café.

But one fateful week, as they are catching up with a slice of cake, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy.

By the next Thursday, Topsy’s dead.

The last thing Liz, Thelma and Pat imagined was that they would become involved in a murder.

But they know there’s more to Topsy’s death than meets the eye – and it’s down to them to prove it…

MY THOUGHTS: A Spoonful of Murder is an entertaining cosy murder mystery starring three very down to earth retired teachers, any one of whom could be your neighbour.

My favourite character was definitely Pat. Self-deprecating, inquisitive and very wise in her own way, Pat is definitely easy to relate to and often had me laughing at her inner thoughts. Thelma and Liz are the ideal sidekicks.

The plot flows at an even pace, with numerous humorous moments. There are a veritable plethora of red herrings and multiple suspects who could be responsible for Topsy's death, but WHY? Why would anyone want to murder a harmless, if slightly befuddled, old lady?

Narrator Julie Hesmondhalgh has a wonderful range of voices and intonation in her repertoire and I would instantly be attracted to anything she narrates.

A Spoonful of Murder, as well as being a delightfully entertaining read, deals with dementia, loan sharks, and cleverly outlines many of the ways the vulnerable elderly can be defrauded of their life savings.


#ASpoonfulofMurder #NetGalley

I: @jm_hall_writer @avonbookduk

T: @AvonBooksUK

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #cosymystery #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: J.M. Hall is a 20-something PR executive based in New York City. A Philadelphia native, he began writing fiction during his time at the University of Miami before embarking on a career in corporate communications. During the day, he can be found getting top-tier press for his clients in outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Fortune and USA Today.

At night, he can be found at his computer, crafting his next story.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Avon Books UK for providing a digital ARC of A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

A Spoonful of Murder by J.M. Hall is available in Kindle and audiobook formats.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage

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When an elderly former colleague suffering from dementia dies, it all seems perfectly understandable that she would have mixed up her pills’ dosages and overdosed. Retired teachers and friends Thelma, Liz and Pam are saddened by Topsy’s death, and would never have thought anything was off about the situation, but a word here and there sets each off into asking questions and poking at situations to find out whether Topsy really did accidentally overdose or was murdered.

The story takes a while to get going, with the author giving us time to get to know Thelma, Pat and Liz and their personalities, insecurities and family concerns. Thelma becomes concerned about one of her former pupils experiencing money problems, Pat is worried about her weight and her son and some unknown “internet problems”, while Liz is worried about her grandson’s tantrums in a highly regarded school. Also, Topsy’s death exposes a series of schemes targeting seniors, which has all three of the friends understandably upset.

Though fairly slow-moving, I did enjoy this mystery, watching the trio puzzle their way to the not-that-hard to figure out solution. It was also interesting how the author wove in so many issues into the story: caring for an ailing parent, people committing theft and fraud against seniors, broken families, financial woes, and intergenerational problems.

There must be a thing now with older amateur sleuth stories, as I’ve read more than I had expected to recently. This trio muddled their way to the solution, and a resolution for their other personal cares, in a way that held my attention to the end, and has me looking forward to their next sleuthing adventure.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Avon Books, UK for this ARC in exchange for my review.

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A Spoonful of Murder is a perfect book for me. Not only am I a retired educator who meets with colleagues regularly over coffee or a meal, but I am a huge cozy mystery fan. As the story starts, we meet Liz, Pat and Thelma, retired teachers and former colleagues of St. Barnabus’s Primary School. They meet up each week to gossip and catch up with each other. One week they bump into Topsy, another ex-colleague, and her daughter Kelly Anne. Topsy is in the early stages of dementia and KellyAnne is her caregiver. While the friends chat with Topsy, they sense that there is something not quite right, especially when Topsy shares some disturbing facts. Within a short period of time, KellyAnne shares that her mother has been the victim of financial fraud and has lost all her life savings. When Topsy is found dead in her home the following week Liz, Pat and Thelma suspect that there might be more to her death than meets the eye. Even though her death is ruled accidental, the ladies are sure there is more going on and they nose around and ask questions. Does the fraud have anything to do with the death or possible murder?

I enjoyed meeting these three ladies. They had a great friendship, yet were very different from one another. I liked how they complemented each other and worked together to figure out what happened to Topsy and with the fraud. Of course, being retired teachers, they knew a lot of people and were observant as well as good at solving puzzles. There was also lots of humor, tongue in cheek and some sarcasm that kept me chuckling. I thought I had a few things figured out, but with so many possible suspects and clues that led me down various paths, I was only partially correct. While the mystery and the ladies antics were somewhat humorous, there are some serious issues dealt with in this story. Issues that elders will deal with such as, treatment of frail persons, possibility of dementia and the issues surrounding care, the vulnerability of older persons to be taken advantage of by scammers (not just bank fraud, but charging for jobs not needed or not completed), banks who don't want to help and those who have no children to help them. Overall, this was a fun cozy mystery with some serious things to think about after you close the cover.. I definitely recommend this story.

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A thoroughly enjoyable read about a group of retired primary school teachers who turn detective when one of their own dies in suspicious circumstances.

A great cozy crime with some very likeable characters and situations which are so easy to liken to our own lives.

Looking forward to seeing what happens next for these ladies and their next adventures.

Thanks to Netgalley. the publisher and the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Really enjoyed this cozy crime debut. I thought the story was good and found lots of the strands interesting.

Very similar vibe to the Richard Osman books, with retirees solving a murder (even the cover is similar).

Lots of characters introduced very quickly and I could have done with a bit more to differentiate the three main ladies earlier on. They started to solidify later which made things better.

Some of the back story, especially the baby storyline felt a bit random and underexplored.

Some great characterisation especially of the suspects which was fun. I did guess the murderer earlier.

Shame the three worked separately quite so often. It would have been nice to have them together occasionally and made it easier to follow and easier to remember who was who (the jumping was unhelpful at times).

Could use of colour, outfits and locations.

All in all a fun, quick, breezy read.

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My thanks to Avon Books U.K. for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘A Spoonful of Murder’ by J.M. Hall in exchange for an honest review.

This was a fun cosy mystery in which three retired school teachers become involved in a case of possible murder.

Liz, Thelma and Pat meet up every Thursday for their ‘coffee o’clock’ sessions at the Thirsk Garden Centre café. One week as they are in the midst of catching up, they bump into their ex-colleague, Topsy. They are concerned as Topsy appears to be vague and forgetful.

They learn from Topsy’s daughter that recently she had been cruelty defrauded of her life savings by a telephone scammer. By the next Thursday Topsy is dead after apparently muddling up her pills. Yet something doesn’t feel right to her friends prompting them to do some sleuthing of their own. No further details to avoid spoilers.

Recently there has been an upsurge in cosy mysteries featuring more mature amateur detectives, a modern take on Miss Marple. Certainly as an older reader, I appreciate this trend. In between seeking answers we learn more about the friends’ lives.

Also, Hall’s background as a primary school deputy head gave him inspiration in creating his main characters and his love for the works of Agatha Christie informed his approach to writing this intriguing mystery.

Overall, I felt that this was a great debut and very pleased to see that Liz, Thelma and Pat will be returning later this year with ‘A Pen Dipped in Poison’. I definitely will be ordering it.

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Description 🔖

Three retired school teachers; Pat, Liz and Thelma meet every week at the cafe of their local garden centre for a cuppa and a catch up. At one such meeting, they happen to bump into an old colleague of their’s called Topsy. By the following week, Topsy is dead.

These three ladies had no idea they were about to become involved in a murder, but it is important to them to find out what happened to their friend. They are certain that a crime was committed and it is up to them to solve it.

General Thoughts 🤔

Firstly, I wish I could be a real grown up and enjoy a cup of tea. I feel like a cup of tea is necessary in order to complete the cosiness of this book. This was definitely a great book to get lost in and block out the rest of the world. It was full of twists and turns with red herrings at every corner, however the story wasn’t too difficult to follow.

I loved the warming parts of this story. Not only did it keep me on my toes with the mystery, but it gave me all of the feels and warmed my heart. These ladies had their own lives, some of them with more drama than others, yet they all put that on hold to a certain extent in order to find out what had truly happened to their friend.

Characters 👫👭👬

I think that good characters are an absolute must for a successful cosy mystery and this book didn’t disappoint. Pat, Liz and Thelma are a group of brilliant personalities and they all bring something different to the table.

If I was forced to choose, I think I’d have to pick Liz as my favourite. I loved that her inner monologue was one of little confidence, yet she continued to throw herself into uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations. I think I’m probably most like Thelma as I feel like I could see myself doing some of the things that she did and feeling the same way as her about them.

Writing Style ✍️

J.M. Hall has found himself on my authors that I’ll continue to read list. There was so much packed into this book without it feeling overwhelming and complicated. I listened to an interview with him about his inspiration for the book and it makes complete sense in hindsight. He captured the emotion and impacts of fraud on the elderly so well and it certainly made me think about how it would make me feel if it happened to a friend or relative of mine.

The book was paced really well and certainly kept me glued to the pages so I could find out what happened next. It was told from multiple POVs (my favourite) but there were some moments I got confused about which character I was reading. One thing I particularly loved though was the fantastically named chapters. Every one made me giggle because it was kind of like hearing my Nan’s answer if I asked her what happened in her day.

Conclusion & Scoring 🎖

As I mentioned above, I was really looking forward to reading A Spoonful of Murder and it definitely lived up to the hype I had created for it in my mind. It was thrilling and full of mystery whilst at the same time, funny and very heart warming. The characters were brilliant to journey with and I would love to see more of them from this great author. You should definitely get this book, a cup of tea and some biscuits and get lost in this cosy mystery.

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I would rate it 4.75. This is one of the best crime/mystery book that I have read so far. I’m trying not to leave any spoilers in this review (forgive me if it does). The main thread was dementia, as a doctor it was refreshing to see it from anyone else’s point of view on this. This author takes the ordinary things happening to ordinary people and put them altogether to create such a thrilling book. The emotions, the rollercoaster, is it him? Is it her? When you think this is it, something else doesn’t quite match up revealing more to it.

The only bit that I struggled with is the nuance of the slang used to create the scene where the story is based in and the generation as I’m in my 30s and these characters are at least a generation if not 2 above me.

Thank you Avon Books UK for this Advance Review Copy. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Something I really enjoy is discovering new authors, A Spoonful of Murder is a cosy mystery debut novel by J.M. Hall.

The characters were well written and relatable, and I found that the story flowed well making it a quick and very enjoyable read.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for J.M. Hall in the future.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book.

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Set around the East Yorkshire towns of Thirsk and Northallerton, A Spoonful of Murder offers a trio of female retirees using their varied skills to solve a murder mystery. Liz, Pat and Thelma, three retired teachers meet on a Thursday for 'coffee o'clock' sessions when they run into a former colleague, Topsy from St Barnabus's Primary school and her daughter, KellyAnne. Topsy dies a few days later and the women are soon wondering whether Topsy's death is as anodyne as they have understood and so they begin their own investigation.

It's always great for me to begin a new cosy mystery series, and this is especially true when the setting is relatively local. The characters were well done and the ending was satisfying. The plot flowed at an even pace, and there were numerous moments of hilarity. Red herrings were plentiful and there was a multitude of suspects who might have been responsible for Topsy's death. Well worth a look if you're partial to cosy mysteries.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel at my request from Avon Books UK via NetGalley and this review is my unbiased opinion.

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Thank you to the author, Avon Books UK and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

This murder mystery is like a wonderful cup of tea with three old friends, settling in for a catch-up and then discovering all kinds of unexpected goings-on. It's charming and the protagonists are well-drawn and very likeable - although I have to say, it did take me a bit to work out who is who, given that the POVs are never clearly designated and there are a lot of sub-plots that distract from the main narrative. I loved the protagonist's determination and their willingness to stick to it, going well beyond their individual comfort zones. The story unravels with humor, but also with empathy, particularly around the issues of elder care and financial exploitation of vulnerable individuals by fraudulent entities. The story is a bit long-winded and I knew fairly early on who the guilty party was, but found the read very entertaining nonetheless.

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