Narrative makes the world go round.
I started Rendell with her later Wexford mysteries, but hesitated to spend a credit on this one because it was both older and shorter. I'm glad I finally tired it since it proved a well-wriiten and absorbing mystery made more enjoyable by Rendell's knack for capturing the setting and Wexford's dry wit. The narrator (not favorites Bailey or Anthony) delivers a different but apt voice for Wexford.
*fresh writing (Cotterill is master of the grusome but original simile)
*setting details make Laos come alive
*mystery is engaging (though secondary to quirky characters)
*humorous without belittling the situation of 1970s Laos
I plan on listening to the entire series
This is a satisfyingly slow-paced bloodless backyard listen written in the 1990s before technology necessarily started to dominate murder mysteries. The protagonist is a middle aged widow and mother, a political scientist, back room provincial politico - nothing glamorous, just smart. The setting is very Canadian prairie, but the Manitoba political system is explained well enough and doesn't get in the way. The plot doesn't turn on coincidence, and though you'll know "whodunnit" before the protagonist, it unrolls like some classic detectives in that the author wants you to be one self-satisfying step ahead of the sleuth (but not 100% sure!)
Amateur sleuth mysteries often fail because an author can't establish a valid reason why the protagonist gets involved -- so it seems like meddling. This protagonist involves herself in the murder mystery because, in her grief, she needed "to prove that life was a coherent narrative with a beginning, middle and an end." And isn't that why we read detective novels? So we enter the puzzle with her naturally. I doubt that this series can keep its grounded feel (one murder can happen in anyone 's life but how can an amateur sleuth find a dozen?) However, I hope Audible stocks many more in the series so I can find out.
I find it useful when reviewers compare a series unknown to me to a better known one . I think this is like Laura Lippman's Tess, with a similar strong sense of place but less action. It's well narrated too, in a similar style.
PS The cover art is poorly chosen - I delayed listening because I suspected yet another abusive clergy story line due to the rosary. Religion is a minor cultural element, one of the minor "appearances" to be kept up by some characters and adds local colour, but is not central.