Monday, May 21, 2018

A Very Different British Mystery from Judith Cutler, Teacher's Point of View, in HEAD COUNT

When's the last time you read a mystery that paid attention to the social needs of eight-year-olds, the career risks of head lice, and the criminal vulnerability of illegal immigrants?

Right -- I thought so. Welcome to HEAD COUNT, a series debut from highly experienced British author Judith Cutler. Brush up your cricket terms just in case (Cutler adores it), and jump into action with Jane Cowan. Not only is she the head of two schools instead of one this term -- she's also in high demand as an umpire for official league games of cricket in the region. Bottom line: She's got to hang tough, no matter what.

But that won't be easy, as her newly adopted small primary school is neighbor to an irritated and manipulative major landowner; unplanned students with language issues land in her classrooms; and one of the biggest guys in the cricket group has multiple grievances with her that may play out painfully, both on the field and in the school hallways.
And what could I do? Tell the governors, for one thing. But that didn't involve striding around, questioning people -- anything. It must have been some of that frustration that Hazel Roberts sensed. 'I'll alert everyone else on the board and start them searching too. Meanwhile, my dear, get off the phone. It's vital you keep the line open. You're the point of contact for everyone -- the still point of the turning world, as Eliot put it.

Where on earth could Zunaid be?
Cowan's roles may pin her into forced play or, regrettably, non-play. But that doesn't mean she can't make sure a missing student is safely found, and a set of major crimes brought to a halt. With a bit of danger along the way.

Cutler's written some 40 novels and knows how to spin the tale. This book came out in the UK in 2017 from Allison & Busby, and reached the US this month via Casemate/IPM. It's a pleasant read, and good to add to the summer reading stack, for a chance to relax and follow along in a traditional mystery with neat twists and satisfying (if somewhat predictable) finale.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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