In summary, Dead Stock by Rachel Ward is the story of a pair of supermarket-working amateur sleuths who solve the mystery of some missing cats. For a book that’s over three hundred pages long, not a lot else happens. It drags.
Ant and Bea are the have-a-go heroes, employees of Costsave, who find the butchered body of their colleague’s cat round the back of the bins. They suspect it is murder and go in search of the culprit after a few more dead cats show up. Despite an interesting opening where a dead body is being thrown off a fly-over, this event doesn’t seem to be mentioned again, and other storylines start, but don’t go anywhere, such as Bea’s romantic feelings for a new co-worker, and her mother’s agoraphobia. The novel touches on the theme of loneliness too, but brushes over it too hastily to make it meaningful. Ward has written a previous “Ant and Bea Mystery”, The Cost of Living, but too many references to it make the reader feel like they need to be familiar with its story to fully follow this one. For the first few chapters I was distracted by the characters’ names: Ant, Bea, Charles, Dot, Eileen…I’m sure there are countless books, probably most of them, where character names start with different letters of the alphabet, but it has never distracted me like this before. I started anticipating what names would come up next – we even have a Queenie, so Q isn’t left out.
Dead Stock is the definition of cosy crime. It’s a pleasant read, but not captivating or riveting stuff. Ward wants to remind us that hers is a modern novel, with constant references to Twitter, Instagram, the Kardashians and WhatsApp, perhaps compensating for its old-fashioned feel. It is refreshing not to be reading a crime novel about dead and mutilated women, but instead one featuring a young woman who feels left behind by high-flying friends but whose bravery ultimately saves the day. Agatha Christie or Raisin she isn’t, but with so much gloom in the world, perhaps light-hearted frivolity is what we need.
Dead Stock by Rachel Ward is out on 15th November 2018.