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*****= An all-time favorite
***The Tale of Hill Top Farm
The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter
by Susan Wittig Albert
Reviewed March 29, 2005.
Berkley Prime Crime, New York, 2004. 286 pages.
You can’t get any cozier than this British cozy mystery story. I’ve already read mysteries where the sleuth is Jane Austen. This book has as sleuth another famous British writer—Beatrix Potter.
The book reads a little bit like a Beatrix Potter book—we even are told what the animals of the village say to each other. I almost quit reading when I got to that part, but a little bit later I was enough involved in Beatrix Potter’s own story that I kept on reading.
After the death of her fiancé, Beatrix Potter bought Hill Top Farm in the village of Sawrey. She was lonely and had always led a protected, sheltered life. This purchase gave her a chance to break away from her parents’ stifling attention. The book tells a fictional story of her arrival in the village to get ready to take possession of the farm. Meanwhile, a distinguished resident of the town has just died, leaving her cottage to a mysterious stranger. The Parish Register has disappeared, and so has the money which was raised to fix the school roof, as well as a valuable painting.
I got used to the talking animals, then toward the end of the book, Tom Thumb the mouse talks about his dead wife having dressed up in a blue silk dress for dinner. Then the cats discover some rats dressed in waistcoats and jackets and such. I didn’t mind the animals talking, but implying that they really dress in human clothes, as in Beatrix Potter’s stories, messed up my suspension of disbelief.
I think if you read this book for the mystery, you’ll probably be disappointed, as the mysteries aren’t solved so much from putting clues together as from animals or people stumbling over the correct solution. Still, it’s a nice story. It reminded me of a Jan Karon book, with nice people in a village getting to know each other and learning to get along. You do find yourself rooting for Beatrix to make a success of the farm and get out from under her parents’ thumbs.
Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund. All