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Scones and Scoundrels (Scheming Spires Mysteries, #1) by Charlotte Graham

There was just so much to be delighted by in Scones and Scoundrels that I think this will be a series I will look forward to each new installment.

A year after the death of her husband of 30 years, Georgina Strange follows her dream of attending Oxford to read English. But after only a few days on campus, she becomes embroiled in a murder investigation – one in which SHE is the prime suspect. After an early morning walk through campus, Georgina finds the body of an obnoxious, fellow student, Dexter Ellis, in the quad courtyard with one of her homemade scones from a campus bake sale stuffed in his mouth. Unfortunately, only the day before she had been overheard telling the man she didn’t care if he choked on it! When all other suspects are able to come up with solid alibis for their whereabouts at Dexter’s time of death and the chief inspector on the case zeroes in on her, she takes matters in her own hands to prove her innocence.

I enjoyed that the protagonist, Georgina Strange, is an older woman, a recent widow, setting out on a new phase of her life – a life without her beloved husband, Simon, and a life at university. The friends she makes are a diverse group of people all older (some just a bit) than the traditional student. She’s excited and optimistic about this new chapter of her life yet a little intimidated by the university experience as a whole. (I groaned just thinking about how I’d feel about returning to school and hitting the books again at my age.) She has guts and nerve! I particularly liked the character Lucy Saunders, her free-spirited flatmate, and new best friend.

The question of who murdered Dexter Ellis is a solid mystery, and it was easy to follow Georgina’s thinking and actions to try and clear her name. I wasn’t crazy that the chief inspector seemed utterly convinced that Georgina was the only real suspect and didn’t seem to investigate anyone else on his own initiative. He does redeem himself some as time goes on, and his character developed a little bit more. However, the murder wasn’t the only mystery involved in the book. Many other things were going on besides, and thankfully, these are wrapped up by the end of the book, so no unsolved cliffhangers.

Besides the murder, Georgina also confronts her first year of study, and I enjoyed the story of her going to tutorials, writing her essays, and becoming part of university life. An interesting subplot is Georgina’s awareness that as a mature woman, she had to face down some stereotypes from others while realizing she, too, has been guilty of stereotyping some of her fellow students herself. Also, she is still feeling her way through life after a year of widowhood. In this unfamiliar location, she is introduced to new people, including men, who do not know her as Simon’s widow but as an attractive woman. She is unsure about dating at this point but does consider the possibility, and there is a candidate or two provided in the story for her future consideration.

The author included nice details of the Oxford setting, making it feel more and more familiar as the book went along. The little mentions of the fall leaves, and the rain made it even more vivid in my mind.

This is the first book in the series, Scheming Spires Mysteries, and I hope to see many more like this one. I recommend this book for cozy mystery readers, especially those that enjoy a more mature amateur sleuth. Scones and Scoundrels is available for Kindle on Amazon and is part of the Kindle Unlimited program at this time.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery at https://reedsy.com.

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