‘A Pen Dipped in Poison’ by J.M. Hall

Author : J.M. Hall
Title : A Pen Dipped in Poison
Series : Thelma, Pat and Liz #2
Pages : 320
Publisher : Avon Books UK
Source : Netgalley


Retired schoolteachers Liz, Pat and Thelma never expected they would be caught up in a crime even once in their lives, let alone twice.

But when poison pen letters start landing on the doorsteps of friends and neighbours in their Yorkshire village, old secrets come to light.

With the potential for deadly consequences.

It won’t be long until the three friends are out on a case yet again…


As I mentioned in my review of J.M. Hall’s previous book “A Spoonful of Murder“, cosy mysteries aren’t really my copy of tea. But there was something about these three ladies that drew me in, and I very much looked forward to spending more time with them. Luckily, my wish was granted and here we are.

In these days of social media and trolling, could a cosy mystery possibly be any cosier when it deals with that old fashioned thing called poison pen letters? Anonymous notes are being sent to teachers at the local academy. Incidentally, the school where the lovely ladies of Pat, Thelma and Liz used to teach before they retired. An attack on the school and its staff, some of them their friends, is an attack on them. So obviously they won’t rest until they figure out who is sending these letters.

Just like with their last outing, there is much more going on than merely solving this mystery. Each one of these friends is dealing with issues at home, and while they may be friends, it seems they are reluctant to share any of it with each other. There is lots of talk about retirement (of the husbands), there are children who can’t seem to settle in life, there are health issues, and as they grow older there is that feeling that time is running out. Not exactly something you just throw out over cake and coffee on a Thursday.

There’s somewhat of a nostalgic vibe running throughout this story, I felt. A longing for the good old days, when one still had hopes and dreams. For Liz, Pat and Thelma the changing of the times is most obvious when they step inside their old stomping ground and see how much “their” school has changed. How much education has evolved. Or rather, how schools have turned into profit making businesses and children seem to be nothing but numbers. Those who can’t keep up are left behind. It’s not just the children who suffer. The teachers do as well. Putting all their time and energy into work, leaving no time for family or hobbies. All that matters is achieving the (impossible?) targets that are set for them by people higher up the chain, who gladly fill their pockets along the way.

Once again, J.M. Hall manages to create the perfect balance between solving a mystery, and thought-provoking issues that add an extra layer to this cosy tale. That said, I did find that I was way less interested in finding out who the author of the notes was than knowing what the three friends were dealing with on a personal level. It just goes to show I’ve become completely invested in their lives. For me, ‘A Pen Dipped in Poison‘ felt slightly darker than its predecessor. There are witty moments, but there seemed to be less of them. But like I said, they have a lot going on. Will it stop them from catching the poison pen letters author?

I feel like I should have figured out whodunnit but I didn’t. Not that I was bothered by that, as I thoroughly enjoyed my second outing with Pat, Thelma and Liz. There are plenty of surprises, there’s an intriguing cast of characters, and while I didn’t think this one was as strong as “A Spoonful of Murder“, I still found it immensely entertaining. I do so hope there will be more from these friends in the future, because I will quite happily set aside all my regular gore and gruesomeness for another opportunity to hang out with them.

Amazon UK [will be published on Thursday!]

My thanks to Avon Books for the advanced review copy, which I received via Netgalley. All opinions are my own!

  4 comments for “‘A Pen Dipped in Poison’ by J.M. Hall

  1. March 28, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    Glad you enjoyed this 🙂


  2. March 29, 2023 at 7:45 am

    I haven’t figured out whodunit, either. And I missed their friendly banter in the first half of the book when they’re all keeping secrets from one another. Great review. ❤📚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. March 30, 2023 at 9:49 pm

    Fab review! I don’t read a lot of cozy mysteries either, but I think that I’m going to make an exception for this one.


  4. May 19, 2023 at 1:23 pm

    Great review, Eva. I love a good cozy and really enjoyed the first one in this series. I am looking forward to seeing what Pat, Thelma and Liz get up to. I saved your review to read closer to when I was going to read this one.


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