Monday, August 15, 2016

What we're reading: British mystery series

You know that phrase, "Damning with faint praise?" This book review is going to be the opposite: Praising with faint damnation.

I absolutely love the Bill Slider mystery series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. A friend of mine suggested the first one, and I have eagerly awaited the next one ever since. And if you are just starting out on this series, there is a lot to love--there have so far been 18 books! Looking back at my Goodreads ratings and notes, none of them has received fewer than three stars out of five, and the majority have received four or five.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles writes beautifully, with a wonderful use of language. Her characters are extremely likeable, and the mysteries--police procedurals--are interesting without portraying gratuitous violence. But the best part of the Bill Slider series is the sly humor exhibited in the titles of each chapter, and the use of bungled aphorisms by Slider's boss, the hapless Mr. Porson. Occasionally, as an American, I don't get a joke here or there, but mostly I am periodically snickering out loud as I read.

Having said all that...I just read Star Fall. I thought when I picked it up that it was brand new, but it's actually #17 and precedes the latest, which I apparently already read!

The story, in brief: Television personality and antiques expert Rowland Egerton has been murdered in his own home. He was found by his business partner, who seems to have no motive but who was the most available to do the deed. But as Slider and his team look into the victim, they discover that the charming Mr. Egerton was actually a rather nasty piece of work, and perhaps there are many with motive, if not opportunity.

I liked the book well enough; there was nothing wrong with it, and much to entertain. But it seemed a little lackluster compared to some of the previous books in the series. One of the things I like the best about the series--the interjection of the personal lives of Slider and his cohorts--was mostly missing from this book. Additionally, there was not a truly exciting turn of events in the mystery; it was a bit of a plod, to be British about it. It was really the first time I felt the term "procedural" fit one of Harrod-Eagles's books to a T, because it seemed completely according to procedure, with little to enliven it.

There was an interesting twist on almost the last page, though, that may bode well for the next few books in the series, whenever they appear.

Meanwhile, if you have never read any of these books, start with the first--Orchestrated Death. I envy you the opportunity to discover this series from book one!

Also, if you are looking to read more mysteries, this month's meeting of our Scene of the Crime Book Club (tomorrow night at Buena Vista) is for you--each member will be presenting a different favorite mystery. Come to the meeting and take notes for your "to read" list!

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