Despite the fact that neither Robert Hathall nor his wife Angela seemed particularly likeable...and that each appeared to outsiders to be as paranoidDespite the fact that neither Robert Hathall nor his wife Angela seemed particularly likeable...and that each appeared to outsiders to be as paranoid and "nervy" as all get out, no one seemed to dispute the fact that they were very much in love with each other. There's not much money rolling about--Robert has been married before and his extra cash is destined for alimony and child support. So...no jealousy motive, no money motive, and a poor showing of a burglary motive...why was Angela Hathall strangled to death in her own home and found dead in the bedroom by her mother-in-law? From the beginning Inspector Reginald Wexford suspects the husband. But Robert has an iron-clad alibi that puts him in London at the time Angela was being murdered in Kingsmarkham.
There's not a shred of proof to point to the husband (or anyone else for that matter) and Wexford's Chief Constable tells him to back off of Robert after the man complains that Wexford is persecuting him. With no official backing...and even his subordinate Mike Burden wondering if the chief inspector doesn't just have a bee in his bonnet about the husband, Wexford uses up some of his leave time, employs an out of work acquaintance to "tail" Hathall, and even convinces his nephew, a police superintendent in London, to lend him a hand. Has Wexford gotten obsessed with a single idea? Is he over-reacting as his Chief Constable believes? Or are they up against a murder more ingenious than anyone else can believe?
Shake Hands Forever employs a rather nice twist that readers with less crime fiction experience will definitely find surprising. Even those of us who have been reading mysteries for thirty-some years can appreciate the way Ruth Rendell turns things upside down and forces you to look at the evidence from an entirely different point of view. Not an incredible amount of action--the solution is more slow and steady wins the race than the hurly burly of a dramatic chase and slam-bang finish. Lots of red herrings and it's fun to watch Inspector Wexford vamped by a beautiful witness. Highly enjoyable read at 3.5 stars.
This one was not up to her usual standard. I just really didn't care about the characters much...except for the guy who was going to open up a second-This one was not up to her usual standard. I just really didn't care about the characters much...except for the guy who was going to open up a second-hand bookstore. But then at the end it looks like he won't. Boo. And the "culprit"? (If you read it, you'll realize why the quotes.) Just didn't sell me on that one. Not enough drama; not believable...more
An excellent mystery that kept me guessing right to the end. It has enough twists and turns to make one pick a culprit, then discard him/her, pick anoAn excellent mystery that kept me guessing right to the end. It has enough twists and turns to make one pick a culprit, then discard him/her, pick another, and then keep picking and discarding all through. And I still didn't get it right in the end. This one is every bit as well-written as her Dreaming of the Bones and just as lyrical, albeit with a different rhythm.
My main quibble is that quite a bit is made in the blurbs about Kincaid's relationship with his newly-discovered son....but not a lot of head-way is made. Kincaid's interaction with Kit is really interesting and I'd like to see a lot more of it. Maybe in the next one....
Kenneth Giles was a British author wrote ten mysteries under his own name (one non-series) as well as two other series under the names Edmund McGerr aKenneth Giles was a British author wrote ten mysteries under his own name (one non-series) as well as two other series under the names Edmund McGerr and Charles Drummond. Death and Mr. Prettyman (1967) is the third book in the Giles series which features Harry James--who begins the series as a detective sergeant and is currently an acting inspector--and his sergeant Cedric Honeybody.
In this installment, we are presented with the death of the respectable, elderly solicitor Charles Prettyman during one of London's fabled peasoupers. Prettyman is discovered, knife protruding from his back, in the waiting room of a barrister's office in the very proper Inns of Court. Was he another victim of the "Blue Lady," a serial killer with a taste for smallish men and a penchant for a peculiarly shaped knife? Or did someone use a copy-cat killing to eliminate Prettyman for reasons of their own?
On the surface, Prettyman seems to have been a very harmless and inoffensive solicitor. He was careful in his business matters--managing the affairs of several large estates--and certainly never mixed up in any unsavory circumstances. But then a clerk in Chambers where Prettyman was found is also killed with a knife and a possible witness dies in a fall down a rickety staircase, James and Honeybody begin to think there was more to the solicitor than met the eye. Several trips to the country are called for and James will need to enlist the help of his wife, the "Modest Maidens" Society (a group of female do-gooders), a few old lags, and a peer of the realm to solve the serial killings as well the mystery behind Prettyman's murder.
Giles writes a rather eccentric mystery. Throughout the entire book the dialog reads like a vaudeville act or an old Abbott and Costello routine. The reader is constantly poised for the "badum-tish" at the end of any given conversation. And yet the camaraderie between James and Honeybody is genuine and a great deal of fun. There are moments when I thought I was in the middle of the "Who's on first" routine and didn't quite follow, but it didn't deter from the enjoyment too much. Not quite as fairly clued as one might hope--a few clues are held a bit too tightly to the chest and James makes a final "research" trip that is not explained until the big reveal at the end, but overall a fun ride.
The Chief Inspector's Daughter by Sheila Radley (1980) looks to be a typical British police procedural set in a small English market town. The well-loThe Chief Inspector's Daughter by Sheila Radley (1980) looks to be a typical British police procedural set in a small English market town. The well-loved romance novelist Jasmine Woods, beloved by her readers--including Chief Inspector Douglas Quantrill's wife and daughter--was evidently not universally loved among her relatives and neighbors. She is found beaten to death one morning in a particularly brutal crime that has every evidence of a robbery gone wrong. After all, Jasmine's exquisite collection of jade and netsuke has disappeared. But the severity of the wounds leads Quantrill and his Detective Sergeant Tait to believe that hate may have been the driving force behind Jasmine's death. The one small twist that makes this an atypical British police procedural is that the one person who could shed some light on Jasmine's life before the murder is Quantrill's own daughter Alison. Unfortunately, Alison has disappeared and is unavailable for questioning.
Alison came home from London after a love affair gone wrong. In need of employment, she meets Jasmine and has the good fortune to become the novelist's secretary...and, eventually, friend. It is Alison who finds Jasmine's beaten body and, initially, she is too shaken and shocked to be questioned. Her emotional reaction is so strong that she leaves home and goes into hiding rather than be questioned by her father and his team. Her last known whereabouts put her in the vicinity of one of Quantrill's primary suspects and he has to face his fears for her safety as well as deal with his official displeasure that a witness has done a runner.
Without his daughter to help him learn about the novelist's life, he must use the knowledge that he and his sergeant picked up at a party Jasmine put on several weeks before her death. A party where it seemed that the main activity for the guests was to find ways to subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) insult their hostess. Everyone from her brother-in-law and cousin, both of whom resent her success and wealth, to the antiques dealer who resents the value of her oriental collection--some of the pieces which he sold to her far too cheaply--to her neighbor who covets her body and resents that he cannot have it. For more background, Quantrill turns to Jasmine's previous secretary, Anne. But everything he learns seems to provide more suspects rather than narrowing the field. If only Alison would turn up and tell him what she knows....
As I mentioned in my review of A Quiet Road to Death, Sheila Radley (pen-name of Sheila Mary Robinson) writes a decent British mystery. This one has a few more suspects, so it wasn't as easy to spot the killer here as it was in my previous read. There is plenty of suspicion to go around and it is a pleasure to watch Quantrill and Tait work their way through the questioning. There are clues...hard to spot (I didn't), but available if you happen to pick up on them. By the end of the novel, I had decided on just about everyone at one time or another...except the actual culprit. Well done, on misdirection. The motive is also stronger in this one--particularly for the time period (there's a tiny little pointer for you). And Alison is the one who provides the information necessary to really understand the motive.
One quibble I have--is Tait's reaction to Alison at the end. I cannot explain this without spoiling the motive (and pointing the way to the culprit), so I'll just have to say that it's rather offensive that he thinks he can fix everything just by being the wonderful man that he is.
Overall, a solid, British mystery--coming in at ★★★ . I will certainly keep reading the Quantrill series as they come my way.
In Burial Deferred, a police procedural by Jonathan Ross, we have Detective Superintendant George Rogers waking up in hospital with two goose eggs onIn Burial Deferred, a police procedural by Jonathan Ross, we have Detective Superintendant George Rogers waking up in hospital with two goose eggs on the back of his head, stitches in the top of it, and no memory of the last twenty-four hours. Admitted to the hospital as a victim of an automobile accident, it soon becomes apparent that someone definitely wanted Rogers out of the way. But why? What did he do or see in those missing hours that made it imperative to do away with him?
Ignoring his doctor's advice for bedrest, Rogers discharges himself from the hospital and directs the inquiries into his own attempted murder. Investigations in the area where his wrecked car was found lead him to the nearby woods where he finds a shallow, but empty grave. He becomes drawn to the baroque Victorian house on a steep cliff overlooking the sea and the woods. He questions Phaedra Haggar, a serene blind woman, and her paying guests. But nobody admits to hearing anything out of the ordinary on the night in question. Now he knows that they are most likely looking for a body, but where will it be found? It isn't long before a young woman's body is brought out of the sea....but she hasn't been drowned. She has been shot in the face with a shotgun.
Rogers and his force have to make their way through the lies told by the guests and discover how and why the body was left to lie for hours and then stood up. She was apparently shot while lying down, but there is no evidence of a shooting in any of the bedrooms. And why did no one hear the shot? Making the case more difficult, one of her fellow guests has gone missing as well. At first it was assumed that the young couple had run away together. But now that she's been found, where is Michael? Did he kill her and run?
It isn't easy for Rogers to answer these questions while still trying answer his own. What happened in those missing hours and how important are those answers to the case at hand? Rogers is even more human and vunerable in this outing than in most. As he pushes his ailing body and taxes his delinquent memory, he feels that he is failing the young woman whose death he means to avenge. Added to his dilemma is the attraction he feels for Phaedra and the fear that it will hinder his objectivity.
Ross writes a very good police procedural. Good plotting and a well-rounded cast of supporting charcters. Overall, a solid mystery. ...more
Playground of Death by John Buxton Hilton is the seventh in his Inspector Kentworthy series.Kentworthy has his own peculiar way of investigating mattePlayground of Death by John Buxton Hilton is the seventh in his Inspector Kentworthy series.Kentworthy has his own peculiar way of investigating matters that makes him something of a puzzle to the local constabulary when he is sent along by Scotland Yard to tend to cases that need an outsiders touch. But he also has a certain flair that allows him to find the solution that others miss.
Such is the situation in Filton-in-Leckerfield. Roger Bielby, a former mayor and all-around big-wheel in the Lancashire town was arrested for the shooting death of his wife Maggie. But he never made it to his initial hearing--he was shot himself by an as-yet unknown killer while on his way into court. The circumstantial evidence against him was quite strong and the local authorities have no doubt that he would have been convicted had he been allowed to face trial. But when Kentworthy examines the case notes and visits the crime scenes, he's not so sure. And then when he reads the journal Bielby had been working on in jail, he becomes convinced that the crimes have roots in the past. Bielby's journal is full of memories growing up in the slum area of town--a child with no father, skirting the law and getting into trouble until his father show up to marry his mother and to try and give him a respectable life. A stint in the army during the war seemed to point him onto the straight and narrow and he returns to his home town a war hero determined to better himself. Hidden in those memories are clues to current events and Kentworthy manages to trace the clues a solution that will surprise the village even more than an accused and murdered ex-mayor.
There must be something about the Kentworthy stories that keep me coming back. At least, I do keep picking up new entries in the series as I find them--but I consistently give them between two and three stars and never more than that, so I'm not quite sure that I can pinpoint what the overall appeal is. This one comes in for ★★ and a half. And most of the star power is for the historical framing of the story. The journal entries, which comprise almost the entire first half of the book, are some of the most interesting parts. The final wrap-up relies heavily on information from those entries and on current interviews with key players from that time period. Kentworthy is his usual peculiar self and his investigation has a somewhat disjointed feel (something I've noted in a few others in the series), but overall a decent police procedural story.
The Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö starts out with what seems to be a crank call. An elderly woman phones the police to complainingThe Man on the Balcony by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö starts out with what seems to be a crank call. An elderly woman phones the police to complaining about a "nasty" man who stands on his own balcony for hours at a time--just staring at the traffic and the children at play in the streets below. Before long that call is forgotten as the Stockholm police are confronted with a child-killer. Someone is stalking young girls (average age of ten) and then molesting and killing them in the city's parks. There are few clues to be had for Superintendent Martin Beck and his colleagues and soon the city's residents are putting together civil guards to watch their children at play. Everyone is on edge with the undercurrent of fear affecting even the police. Beck has two witnesses: a mugger who doesn't really want to cooperate and a three-year-old boy who can't tell all he knows. But will they tell the police enough to lead them to the killer?
This was a really difficult read for me. Not difficult like my previous book, Intruder in the Dust, was difficult--thankfully, there is no stream of consciousness here. And not difficult in the writing style--I sailed right through the the story. It wasn't over my head. No, what was hard was the subject matter. I have a very difficult time reading stories that involve children being murdered, abused, or harmed in any way. The only thing that helped me overcome the subject was the deft manner in which it was handled. The writing is clear and simple and it carries the reader straight through the action. The deaths are described in such a way that you feel the horror of the situation without being immersed in it. It also helps that Sjöwalll and Wahlöö write such a good police procedural. You are concentrating on the policemen and their methods far more than on horrible crimes--which for me is a good thing.
Overall, my enjoyment of the writing, the characters, and the story itself far outweighed any squeamishness on my part to read about child-murder....more
It's been a while since I've read a mystery by Catherine Aird. I first discovered her about twenty years ago. It's hard to believe that she's been wriIt's been a while since I've read a mystery by Catherine Aird. I first discovered her about twenty years ago. It's hard to believe that she's been writing her Inspector Sloan mysteries for over forty years. Of course now, in Past Tense--the most recent adventure written in 2010--he is a Detective Chief Inspector and the police have cell phones and computers at their beck and call. But the style is the same. Aird writes a very smooth, quick read. The mystery is complex enough to hold the attention and the characters are drawn with broad strokes, giving just enough information to flesh them out and keep them from being two-dimensional. Reading this one was like slipping into something familiar and comfortable. Not too taxing and thoroughly enjoyable. Not a spectacular read (like my previous one), but a nice cozy, comfortable mystery.
This installment revolves around Josephine Short--her life and, more importantly, her death. She has been living at the Berebury Nursing Home, just a short distance from her next-of-kin, a great-nephew and his wife. However, when the nursing home calls the couple to let them know the elderly lady has passed away, they are surprised. They had no idea she was living so close. More surprises follow. A young man who claims to be Josephine's grandson shows up for the funeral. Josephine had never been married and there had never been mention of a son--let alone a grandson. Sloan and his sidekick Detective Constable Crosby are called in when there is a break-in at the Nursing Home and Josephine's room is the only one disturbed. Nothing seems to have been taken, but Sloan is disturbed nonetheless. Finally, a young woman is found floating in the nearby river and it soon becomes clear to Sloan that all of these events must be related. What other secrets does the past (or present) hold for the Short family? And who would kill to keep them hidden?
As I mentioned, this was a nice comfortable read. Fast-paced and easily read in one evening's sitting. Just what you might want if you like cozy mysteries with a touch of police procedure and a puzzle that intrigues but doesn't demand a lot of brain-power. Three and a half stars....more
Death of a God is the fourth book in S. T. Haymon's police procedural series starring Inspector Ben Jurnet. This particular outing finds Jurnet gettinDeath of a God is the fourth book in S. T. Haymon's police procedural series starring Inspector Ben Jurnet. This particular outing finds Jurnet getting a taste of the young pop scene as a local boy-made-good comes home for a rock concert at the local university. Angleby's own Loy Tanner is now the lead singer for the group Second Coming--a rock band with mystical, quasi-religious tones to their music and followers who treat their beloved star as even more of a god-on-earth than is usual for rock group groupies. Jurnet's fiancee, Miriam, manages to get hold of a couple of tickets (winds up that one of her employees is Loy's mum) and she convinces Jurnet to join her for an evening of music. Jurnet is surprised to find himself pulled in by the charismatic band and their "beat." And, even though he is still convinced at the end of the evening that he has somehow been manipulated or brainwashed, he can't deny the effect the musicians had on him....and everyone else within range of the music.
Jurnet and his colleagues are even more surprised the next morning when Loy is found murdered and hung as a replacement in the crucifixion tableau display that had been set up at the request of the Bishop. And as Jurnet digs into the young man's past and relationships he learns that the rock god truly did have feet of clay. His friends and fellow band members had a real love-hate relationship with Loy. Loving the musician he was and the influence of his personality and music and yet hating the way he could use that talent and charisma to make them to do and be anything he wanted. The case quickly moves from no suspects ("no one could possibly want Loy dead") to too many. It doesn't help that Jurnet's personal life and personal feelings cloud some of the issues for him. He finally discovers the key to puzzle of who Loy Tanner really is and who would want him dead--but will he be to late to prevent another death?
Jurnet is a down-to-earth, introspective, very human policeman. Sometimes just a bit too much so--he spends quite a lot of time considering his relationship with Miriam. And I was quite tired of that relationship by the end of the book. She insists that he convert to Judaism before she will consent to marry him--not because she's particularly devout, but,as she puts it, because if there ever comes a time for the British Jews to become outcasts as her people have so often been in the past then she wants to be sure that her husband is on the outcast side with her. Jurnet seems to be making honest efforts to convert and makes all sorts of allowances for her weird moods and yet she removes herself from his apartment mid-way through the book. Only to be hastily reunited with him at the end...a move that quite honestly makes no sense plot-wise or through character development. Jurnet hasn't changed to conform any better with what she wants and her change of attitude just seems convenient rather than logical.
That aside, the mystery is quite decent--although not quite as good as Ritual Murder (#2) or A Very Particular Murder (#5)--and should keep the reader guessing till the end. The style is very fluid and easy to read, making this a nice comfortable book to settle down with for an evening. Three stars.