James Sommers returned from the war shell shocked and uneasy. All he wants now is a quiet life with no trouble, so he returns to the small village of Wychcomb St. Mary where he grew up and takes a job as the local doctor. James’ goal of keeping his head down and avoiding trouble is foiled, however, when a local charwoman is murdered.
Leo Page has spent the war spying for his country and doing whatever it takes to protect England, no matter how dirty the job. His assignments have been a lot more intense than investigating a small village murder, but there are reasons his office wants to keep an eye on this particular crime and to keep the local police away. So Leo is sent in to investigate, under the guise of a man there on holiday to study the local church architecture.
When Leo encounters James, his ruse is up fairly quickly as the men recognize each other from the war. But James has reasons he wants to see the murder solved, and he is willing to keep Leo’s secret. With James’ help, Leo begins to dig into the host of possible suspects. He figures the job should be over quickly and he will be back to his typical assignments, but Leo doesn’t count on becoming so comfortable in the village, and with James in particular. As the men begin to fall for each other, they become closer to figuring out the killer. But when another murder occurs, time is running out to learn who is behind it all.
Cat Sebastian billed Hither, Page as a gay Agatha Christie-type story and that is really a perfect description for this cozy mystery set the in the years soon after WWII. The murder takes place during a dinner party, so this is a closed-door sort of crime in that it is clear the murderer is among those attending. Along with Leo, we quickly meet the assorted locals who are involved, and there is such a charming, lovely, small village feel to the story. What I loved is watching things unveil as we slowly learn the hidden secrets of all the suspects. Nothing is quite as it seems and things are twisted up in all kinds of delicious ways that kept me engaged throughout the story just waiting to see how all the pieces would fit together. What I think adds a really fun element on top of this is that Leo doesn’t actually care about seeing justice done (in fact, he really prefers that it all just be quietly slid under the rug). His job is to keep things quiet and stop the investigation from spilling over into another case his office is handling. And for his part, James just wants to keep his head down and protect those he cares about. So I found it a bit fun that these guys aren’t really fussed about the morality of any of this and it adds an interesting element to the mystery.
The romance between James and Leo simmers mostly on the back burner here. It is clear that there is an attraction between the men from the start, and there is definitely some flirting and some clear intent before they actually get together. But even though things aren’t hot and heavy with their relationship, the connection between these men is incredibly clear. Cat Sebastian is always so excellent at her character development and this story is no exception. We get such an wonderful sense of both of these men, from James’ traumatic war experience to Leo never having a home or a place to belong. It is clear what brings these seemingly different men together and why they draw comfort from one another. There is something just so sweet here to see how James and Leo are able to soothe one another and provide a sense of safety and security, even as they are in the middle of a murder investigation.
Hither, Page is charming, romantic, and a clever mystery. The villagers are delightfully odd and entertaining and Leo and James are really enjoyable together. This looks to the be the first of a series, so I am really looking forward to seeing more of this couple.