The Barchester Murders

Written by G. M. Best
Review by Ann Northfield

Starring the characters from Trollope’s famous Barchester Chronicles, this novel certainly made me wish to re-read the originals to compare different perspectives on characters and events. It is important to stress that it is no way necessary for a reader to have any previous experience with Trollope, as the book is a complete stand-alone. It may well succeed, however, in awakening your curiosity about the classics behind this novel.

This short tale centres on the mysterious murders of two bedesmen, old men who have been saved from the workhouse by being offered sanctuary in the almshouse known as Hiram’s Hospital. Who could have murdered these old men, who have one foot in the grave anyway? And more importantly, why? Trollope himself becomes involved in tracking down the killer and unearthing a desperate secret from the past, which will change the lives of the two daughters of the Warden, the Rev. Septimus Harding, forever.

The focus is on the characters and action rather than long descriptions of scenery or current events. Key themes are the power of love and the importance of reputation. There are many twists and turns and more than one red herring. In conclusion, there is more than enough to keep the reader entertained; however, its brevity means there is perhaps not as much to really sink your teeth into as with longer murder mysteries. Perhaps better to be too short rather than too long, but the ideas and plot deserved more development for me.