Murder Before Evensong by Richard Coles audiobook review – a cosy mystery with charm

The debut novel from broadcaster and cleric Reverend Richard Coles, Murder Before Evensong features Daniel Clement, amateur sleuth and rector of St Mary’s church in Champton, an English village surrounded by verdant hills and country lanes lined with primroses.

Set in the late 1980s, the book introduces us to a cast of characters including: flower arrangers Stella Harper and Anne Dollinger; an aristocratic landowner, Bernard de Floures; a retired headmaster Ned Thwaite; and Daniel’s no-nonsense mother, Audrey, who “sometimes reminded [Daniel] of Pope Pius IX, who responded to the loss of sovereign powers over the papal states by making himself infallible”.

When Daniel announces he will be installing a lavatory at the back of his church, there is uproar among the congregation, who are unaccustomed to change. Soon after, the church warden is found dead among the pews by Daniel’s two dachshunds, Cosmo and Hilda, having been stabbed in the neck with a pair of secateurs. Daniel joins forces with the local detective sergeant, Neil Vanloo, to solve the mystery and flush out the culprit.

Coles, whose voice will be well known to Radio 4 listeners, is the narrator. While he sometimes struggles to bring variety to his characters’ voices, his gentle reading nonetheless conveys the rhythms of life in this picture-postcard village, and the contemplative existence of its rector. Cosy and charming, Murder Before Evensong is less about the shock and gore of murder than its ripple effect on a small, close-knit community. Devotees of Midsomer Murders and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories will feel most at home here.

• Available from Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 7hr 24min

Further listening

The Sandman: Act III
Neil Gaiman, Audible Originals, 11hr 32min
The third book in Gaiman’s trilogy once again takes listeners into the nocturnal kingdom of the Dreaming, where the otherworldly characters are voiced by James McAvoy, David Harewood, Regé-Jean Page, Kat Dennings and more.

Grace Dent, Mudlark, 9hr, 23min
The journalist and restaurant critic narrates her tender and funny memoir about her relationship with her father, George, and the food that brought them together.