Not that Hollywood, the one in Cumbria. For that matter, it isn’t the famous Hattie , Hattie Jacques either. Although, Hattie Mulberry is a larger, voluptuous and sexually aware lady of a number of years life experience too. She has been married twice, once to an Italian and then more recently and, all too briefly, to Hugo. Hugo had a massive heart attack, Hattie was sat at the Captain’s table on a cruise with him at the time.
Hattie comes to Hollywood to collect on an inheritance, Holly Cottage, which has been left to her by an aunt. The day she arrives there is a funeral next door at Holly House, preceded by a loud argument between two female voices.
The next day with her furniture in the cottage and Alf, and his dog Ness, set to work tidying the dilapidated garden, Hattie decides to call at the big house. Where she meets the recently widowed Daphne, a far from merry widow. Daphne’s husband, a popular man with the gang at the pub, apparently committed suicide. Daphne describes him as a happy man. A man who wouldn’t have left her in a parlous financial state by breaching the terms of his life insurance.
Alf is a gardener and handyman who worked at a ‘hotel’ a short distance from Hollywood. Hattie had met Alf when she been employed at the ‘hotel’ before marrying Hugo. There is much more than a bacon sandwich and a roll-up to Alf and the ‘hotel’ might deserve the inverted commas!
Stop her from getting bored in her new rut, it is Alf who suggests that Mrs Mulberry should become the village Miss Marples. Her first case awaits.
The cast of village characters are nicely drawn, pencil outlines where that is all that is needed, watercolours where colour is needed and just a few detailed portraits. It is a well-balanced piece of writing in this respect. Just enough to make the difference between the vicar’s hippy-dippy second wife and the nosey shop keeper very clear.
The randy pub manager is one of Hattie’s big fans, although it would appear that most of the pub regulars are victims of her undoubted charms. As you would expect from a village crime story, the pub, the shop and vicarage are all frequently visited locations.
The plot is a simple vehicle to enable the likeable and less pleasant characters to interact with Hattie. Only the out and out baddies are not redeemable in this light story.
All you have to do is get yourself a nice cup of something, a packet of your favourite biscuits, sit in your favour fireside chair and turn the pages while smiling at these delightful characters. Well, that is what I did.
Oh, and did I mention Drake? I should have mentioned Drake, too late now you’ll have to read the book to find out!