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The Blue Virgin
A Nora Tierney mystery
by M.K. Graff

Bridle Path Press
Publisher's web site:

When I opened The Blue Virgin, I was taken with the setting and style, a well as the quotes at the start of each chapter -- I’m a sucker for chapter headings.

As I began reading, I thought to myself, “Ah, this is just like reading an Agatha Christie.” Even the protagonist’s name would suit one of Dame Agatha’s novels, and it IS, after all, set in Oxford. I settled in for a good read.

The book kept its promise with the pacing and cadence of a real Agatha. I sighed and settled in deeper, reading further.

The Blue Virgin takes place in a modern setting and involves a single, pregnant amateur sleuth, Nora Tierney, who is romantically involved with her artistic collaborator and sleuthing partner, Simon Ramsey. He has no problem seeing himself as father to the baby she’s carrying, despite certainty it is not his. The victim of the crime is the lesbian lover of Nora’s best friend ,Val Rogan, who rapidly becomes the prime suspect of the investigation and therefore the target of questions from Nora’s police contact and admirer, Detective Inspector Declan Barnes. Suddenly, this was no Agatha.

Instead, it’s an MK Graff. Ms. Graff captures all the elements of the British cozy and applies them deftly to the modern world. Her characterizations and descriptions excel. The reader is driven to feel the same love for Oxford as Nora, as well as her trepidation over the future of her romance and child. The story conveys a clear sense of love lost -- not confined to the loss of the victim, but loss as related to choices made and decisions adhered to. While meeting the terms of cozy in the way of being more a puzzle than a portrayal of violent crime, nonetheless Graff explores situations and subject matter seldom under discussion even in Christie’s latter days.

The beauty of Graff’s work, however, has close ties to that of Christie’s books. It is all about relationships. There are the lovers’ quarrels, the unplanned child, a stepmother. There are the small vanities and large egos and bitter conflicts that must find their way into any book that deals with human conflict. It is the humanity that makes the books of both these authors work.

Ultimately The Blue Virgin lives up to its promise to follow along in the path of Dame Agatha Christie’s work, and as a reader, I am following right behind.