The Antique Hunters’ Guide to Murder
Published by Pan Macmillan
Reviewed by Anjana Basu

The book begins with a murder in an antique shop which draws Freya and her aunt Carole into a mystery. Arthur, antique lover extraordinaire and a man with a past is found dead at the foot of his old wooden stairs. The police are inclined to dismiss it as a heart attack but a letter from Arthur lands into Freya and Carole’s hands packed with clues that sends them to Copthorn Manor, the house of the late Lord Metcalf which is apparently hosting an antique lover’s retreat. Despite her misgivings, since, a[art from the danger, she is estranged from Arthur who used to be her mentor in antique hunting, Freya accompanies her aunt to the Manor which at first sight appears to be filled with priceless furniture but after a second glance appears to be filled with something quite different. 

Miller lays out her cast of characters – Giles, Phil, Amy, Bella – all of whom have something to hide. They are each given chapters to themselves, in between the narrative which appears to be taking the reader into manor house murder territory. Miller collaborated with her mother who was an antiques expert to bring artefacts like Gillows furniture and a Martin Bros Wally bird into the story, most of which readers would be unfamiliar with. While It has the making of a country house murder, with the usual cast, The Antique Hunters’ Guide to Murder is a guidebook of what to expect in an old manor house with secret panels, outhouses transformed into guest cottages and more. The results of her research have been put to good use so that those unfamiliar with the English countryside will have a vivid perspective, 

Everyone in grouped together under one roof so to speak and the power also goes providing all the elements for suspense – Miller refers to it as the ‘electric’ – Darkness punctuated by screams to always pleasant to shiver with. There are also anonymous warnings and traces of break in as Carole and Freya find that their cottage has been rummaged through, luckily without their secret stash of Arthur’s journals being discovered. 

Miller’s plot travels back in time to Freya’s beginnings as an antique 

hunter under Arthurs’s guidance, with the death of her boyfriend in Cairo. The murder thereupon takes on thriller undercurrents as Miller opens up about the black market in stolen antiques. Everything is not what it seems in the story and Arthur’s hand is reaching out from beyond the grave to help trap a betraying murderer with wordplay and mire hints. 

The narrative is not quite as fast paced as it might be and Freya is too busy catching up on her past self before her marriage spoilt it all to be believable to begin with. Carole comes across as glamorous, blonde and charming in comparison to her ‘middle aged’ niece who is dressed for some reason in a 

fuddy duddy black number with plastic beads and sequins round the cuff. Freya is not described barring the fact that she finds her real self again, so why Phil, the ‘silver fox’, is attracted to her is hard to explain until one shrugs it off as a writer’s indulgence. Carole gives us a blow by blow account of Phil’s bare torso so that the reader is left in no doubt as to his attractions while Freya remains shrouded in black, characterised only be her IQ where antiques are concerned. Giles, Amy and Franklin too remain shrouded in anonymity physique wise. Perhaps a little description was required in their cases too beyond Giles’ Shanks. 

Miller manages her smoke and mirrors well enough to cover the identity of the murderer, with the usual gathering of the suspects together in one room to await the disclosure. It also seems obvious that the Indiana Jones type antique hunts will continue since Freya has a cruise to Petra booked and Bella is hijacking a van of stolen treasures to return to their rightful countries – though whether for activism or a finder’s fee is unsure. Perhaps also more of Carole’s Pink Panther backstory with Arthus! 

Anjana Basu has to date published 7 novels and 2 books of poetry. The BBC has broadcast one of her short stories. Her by line has appeared in Vogue India, Conde Nast Traveller, Outlook and Hindu Blink.