Mari HowardSeptember 12, 2019

Secrets at St Bride's

by Debbie Young

Here's a relaxing read for any of us who have enjoyed school stories or even wondered how, if not given to the National trust, a stately home can occupy its retirement years. Debbie Young (Author of the Sophie Sayers cosy mysteries) has now created a girls' private boarding school just a mile or two down the road from Wendlebury Barrow, the village where Sophie sells books and seeks explanations for strange goings on. And she has filled it with almost-believable staff and pupils

I have enjoyed this restful book, despite being a Jennings goes to School rather than a Chalet School fan as a child. (I inherited those from the girl next door...) It has the same "grown-ups are crazy" feel. The writer's handling of that questionable creature, the PE mistress, is particularly well exploited, as is the other weird person, slightly to be feared, and definitely to be avoided, the Caretaker/Security Man, (complete with combat clothing). And of course the Bursar, whose role it is to make private education in an ancient building profitable or at least to balance the books. She does it with aplomb, and doses of naughty humour, and has a good command of the style for the cosy mystery which she also employs in this book.

Gemma Lamb, the new teacher, (whose reasons for joining the school are quite close to Sophie's for settling in a quiet country village, despite both are millennials), is a wide eyed innocent tumbling into the secrets of the eccentric array of staff and the gaggle of girls making the most of being sent away from home to be educated. I feel she would make a good friend for Sophie, and maybe the two of them could, in a future volume, attempt to collaborate on solving mysteries together? For example, the real story behind their two mysterious beaux? The cast of characters is completed with the headmistress’s cat McPhee, who like some others is not quiet as honest and open as he appears.

Fun, diverging from the gloom and doom of our newspapers and media, and a great read for a long and boring journey.

(My almost-the-same review also appears on Amazon)