I’ve always wanted to go to Mallorca, but the thought of sharing a two hour flight with a group of boozed up twenty somethings, heading for Magaluf, is not my idea of starting or ending a memorable and relaxing holiday. Mallorca is the largest of the three Balearic Islands, and the seventh largest island in the Mediterranean of 191, ahead of it are Euboea, Crete, Corsica, Cyprus, Sardinia, and Sicily. It’s a popular holiday destination, with its main airport in Palma being one the busiest in Spain, over 14 million passengers passed through it in 2021, with figures in excess of 27 million a year before the pandemic. As for famous residents past and present, even counting part timers, there are some big names. The Irish actor Colm Meaney, famous for playing Chief O’Brien on Star Trek Next generation, is a resident. So is Jeffrey Archer, the novelist, along with Rafa Nadal, the tennis player. While Cynthia Lennon, John Lennon’s first wife and Julian’s Mother, lived there until her death in 2015. Death and crime are what brings us to this beautiful island for our first book review of 2023, the book is Fallen Butterfly by Anna Nicholas and published by Burro Books ( www.burrobooks.co.uk ) in December 2022.
Plans for a controversial new motorway, that will cut a swathe through the unspoilt Mallorca countryside, cause political tensions to run sky high. Then the transport minister is victim of a ritualistic murder, which sends shockwaves reverberating across the island. This causes the island’s police Chief, Tolo Cabot to seek the assistance of his lover and former Barcelona detective, Isabel Flores Montserrat. The two of them along with Isabel’s pet ferret, ‘Furo’ are thrust into a perilous race for answers. All while Isabel is also looking into the mysterious near fatal accidents befalling tourists in the mountains surrounding her village, is this the work of environmentalist or is something more sinister afoot.
This is a lovely book to start the new year off on. I like my detectives to have a bit of quirkiness about them that makes them stand out from your bog standard, trench coat wearing gumshoe, and in Isabel Flores, Anna Nicholas goes full off the books quirky, but in a great way. No other detective I know has a ferret for a sidekick (I stand to be corrected). Cats, dogs, horses… But a cute little ferret, that chunters at just the right time, is a heart-warming addition, and he’s almost the reason you’d pick up the book. My wife and co-librarian, Georgina would love this book, she recently started watching the FBI International TV series, just because of the dog in it….
Isabel also drives a canary coloured, vintage, Fiat 500. Which she affectionately calls ‘Pequinito’ – “Little One”, Morse has his red jag, Magnum his Red Ferrari. But Nicholas again adds charm and likeability to this character with the very human touch of giving her most treasured possessions, cute names… But on top of that this girl is flawed, she sucks Chup Chup lollipops like they are going out of fashion (a nod to Telly Savalas and Kojak) and has a love of wine and cream sponges. If this was real life, and set in the UK, she’d be 300 pounds and two steps away from a coronary. But, no she’s, smart, athletic, and one of the more likeable central characters I’ve happened upon in a while.
As for the story, Anna Nicholas doesn’t shy away from the gritty, but marries the hard reality of crime investigation, with the everyday humour of rural village life. There’s a Bergerac feel about it, with a lot of English references and colloquialisms and at times having seen how successful, the likes of Murder in Paradise have been, I could see this taking off as a very good TV adaptation.
This is Mallorca resident and author Anna Nicholas’s ( www.anna-nicholas.com ) eleventh book, her third in the Isabel Flores Mallorcan Mystery series, the others are Haunted Magpie (2020) and Devil’s Horn (2019). She has written six books on her experiences of starting a new life with her family in Mallorca, and her desire to leave the non-stop London PR Life behind, to run a cattery in the sun. They include Peacocks in Paradise (2021), Goats From a Small Island (2009), Cat On A Hot Tiled Roof (2008) and A Lizard In My Luggage (2007). She also wrote Strictly Off The Record : On The Trail of World Records with Norris McWhirter (2010), recanting her experiences working for the Guinness Book of Records. She is currently along with her friend Alison attempting to climb all the island’s 54 peaks over 1000m, before the end of 2023… (wow, I though setting myself the challenge of Climbing Croagh Patrick and Cycling from the Atlantic to the Med, along the foothills of the Pyrenees, in 2023 was challenging.)
So, if you’re now tiring of the long cold winter months and want inspiration for planning the summer holidays. then I recommend you visit your local book shop or order a copy online, along with the other two, while you’re at it. Then join Isabel, Furo, and Pequinito in their hazardous and heart-warming adventures across the Balearic isles.
Reviewed by Adrian Murphy
This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below, then if you get a copy come back and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.