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The island of Great Britain is home to some of the most beautiful countryside you'll find anywhere in the world. Few areas, however, are as celebrated as the Cotswolds. The 787 square mile region is home to rolling hills, lush green meadows, and villages constructed almost entirely in the region's honey-coloured stone.
In short, it's like a real-life fairytale (until you start to think about things like traffic and real estate costs, anyway).
Perhaps that's why so many authors have devoted their careers to turning the picture-perfect region into a treacherous land of murder and mayhem – where quaint villages have murder rates that exceed even the most dangerous cities in Africa and the Americas. It can't possibly be that perfect, right? Behind the pristine gardens and village fetes and careful manners, there must surely be a surplus of suppressed, murderous rage.
Feel like spending a bit of time in one of those lovely, polite-until-someone-gets-murdered villages? Here are 9 Cotswold village mysteries to get you started.
9 Charming Mystery Novels Set in the Cotswolds
Below, we've gathered a selection of cosy British mysteries set in the Cotswolds. Though not exhaustive, we've tried to get a good mix of both contemporary and period mysteries. We'll probably add to the list in the future, so don't hesitate to mention some of your own favourite books/series in the comments!
Rebecca Topes' A Cotswold Killing
When recently widowed Thea Osborne takes up a housesitting job in the Cotswold village of Duntisbourne Abbots, she expects it will be a calm, perhaps even boring stay. Boring, that is, until her very first night is interrupted by the sound of screams.
Though she knows she shouldn't get involved in the investigation, she just can't help herself. She wants to ease the pain of the local residents who've been affected.
This is the first book in the Cotswold Mysteries series, and each volume follows Ms. Osborne along on another housesitting adventure in a “peaceful” village.
MC Beaton's Agatha Raisin Novels
One of the most celebrated Cotswold-based mystery series is the Agatha Raisin series by MC Beaton. The series follows a London-based PR entrepreneur who sells her business to live out her dream of retiring early in the Cotswolds.
Though the village of Carsley is lovely, Agatha will soon learn nobody there cares much about her successful past, and that she may always be an outsider to the villagers. Still, she tries her hardest and she does eventually find friends and even lovers (though it's a cosy, so don't expect any graphic sex scenes).
Want to read this lengthy series? You can view all the Agatha Raisin books in order here.
Betty Rowlands' Murder at Hawthorn Cottage
In the quiet little village of Upper Benbury, Melissa Craig is just settling into country life when she gets a knock at the door. A body has been discovered in the woods behind her new home. When she realizes the police are going down all the wrong paths, she decides to take matters into her own hands.
This is the first novel in Rowlands' Melissa Craig mystery series.
Ann Granger's Say it With Poison
When Meredith Mitchell agrees to stay with her cousin Eve ahead of Eve's daughter's wedding, she has no idea she's about to become part of a murder investigation. It's the only murder anyone can remember in the Cotswold village of Westerfield – and as a witness, Meredith will be essential to the case.
Of course, given that she'll be helping the divorced Chief Inspector Markby, that may not be such a bad thing.
Blythe Baker's A Simple Country Murder
After Helen Lightholder's world is brought to a standstill by the death of her husband during the Blitz, she moves to a Cotswold village for a change. Unfortunately, it's not quite the peaceful escape she'd been expecting. The suspicious death of a relative will soon draw her into a world she'd never dreamed of inhabiting – and it might just make her the target of a killer.
This is the first novel in the Helen Lightholder series. At time of writing (June 2021), there were six in total.
Fiona Mountain's Pale as the Dead
This is the first novel in the Natasha Blake Ancestor Detective series, and each case involves a modern mystery with some kind of historic ties. In Pale as the Dead, a photographer's model has disappeared, and it may be linked with the death of nineteenth century painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti's wife.
The case is set in the Cotswolds, and the detective is Natasha Blake, a young genealogist with a passion for history.
Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity's Death
Lori Shepard always assumed Aunt Dimity was just a character her mother made up for bedtime stories, but that all changes when she learns she's inherited her aunt's Cotswolds estate – complete with her ghost.
As she gets used to life in England, she'll find her life is suddenly full of murder, mystery, and ghostly guidance.
Kate Kingsbury's High Marks for Murder
When a teacher is found dead in the Bellehaven House finishing school's garden, headmistress Meredith Llewellyn investigates. The series is set in a Cotswolds village during the Edwardian era, and the series blends traditional mystery with some paranormal elements.
If you enjoy it, there are two further books in the series.
Patricia Harwin's Arson & Old Lace
Newly single and in her sixties, New Yorker Catherine moves to the idyllic Cotswold village of Far Wychwood. While the village might seem quaint, something darker lurks beneath the surface. When her neighbour dies in a tragic fire, Catherine is the only one to suspect arson – and with everyone doubting her, she'll have to work twice as hard to prove her case. She's your classic “pushy American” stereotype, but when murder's involved, being pushy may serve her well.
This is the first novel in the Far Wychwood mystery series, and sadly, it seems there are just two in total. A Google search turned up a 2015 obituary for a Patrician Harwin in Maryland, and while there's a chance it's not the same woman, my hunch is that we won't be seeing any more of these (they were published in 2004 and 2005, respectively).
What's Your Favourite Cotswolds-Based Mystery Novel or Series?
Have you read any books that made great use of the Cotswolds as a backdrop? Don't hesitate to share your favourites in the comments!
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