This was my first experience with any type of police procedural literature and I found it fascinating! No need to sleuth around in the shadows or stealthily search basements and attics unobserved. Detectives have a much easier time collecting their evidence, whether it be requesting phone records, fingerprint scans, or DNA tests. I was greatly impressed (although to be honest, not at all surprised) with Mary Simonsen’s knowledge of not just police procedures, but British police procedures! After reading almost a dozen of her novels, I’ve come to know that Ms. Simonsen is truly meticulous with her research and history – no matter the subject, location, or time period. I found the Glossary of British Terms and Note from the Author to be very helpful, especially since this was a new kind of read for me.
I, of course, loved the Jane Austen conference parts in this mystery – the arguments between Jane Austen purists and the Jane Austen Fan Fiction community were fun to explore and witness. I loved seeing the characters discuss blogs and online groups, reference fictional plots and titles related to Jane Austen, and quote Jane Austen during police interrogations! (Ha HA! That got old for DS Shea real fast!) I also loved how Patrick Shea decided to start reading Pride and Prejudice to helps solve the case!
A Scotland Yard Detective is on a much needed time of R&R in the Devon countryside when he suddenly finds himself up to his hips in Jane Austen addicts and a murder of an unpopular guest at the cozy inn where they are all staying. Patrick Shea is ready to run as fast as the cab and train can take him back to London where the suspects don’t speak in quotes and come to near blows over a book by an author whose been dead for two hundred years when his boss at The MET loans him out to the desperate local detective assigned to the case. This was what he got for attempting a vacation.
This is the fourth book in the Patrick Shea series… For those who wonder if they can jump right in, I’m going to give you a ‘yes, but…’ Yes, the murder mystery and the people involved in the case do not carry over from the previous books so it can stand alone. However, if you’re like me and enjoy following the character’s growth arc and series story arcs through then it’s best to start at the beginning so Patrick’s character and personal life make more sense. Like the two women he keeps thinking about through the story make better sense in the context of the series.
So, the story opens with Patrick letting a co-worker sucker him into take over his time-share at a little inn in the Devon countryside. Patrick is a true city dweller and is unimpressed with the bucolic life of the country, but he knows that he has been pushing himself hard at work so takes the opportunity for a week away. On arrival, he discovers his inn is overrun by a Jane Austen conference. Patrick recognizes the name, but has no idea what all the fuss is about. He is really flummoxed when he discovers there are actual factions amongst the Austen fans and the year before it had come to an altercation. The girl at the desk is happy to get him up to speed. Patrick gets the lay of the land and meets all the key players and his copper sense tells him that this year’s conference is shaping up to be a lot of the same even as he goes about his touristy pursuits and tries to relax. But even he didn’t see it escalating to murder.
Patrick is almost resigned to his fate when the local detective tells him that he has been made her second in the investigation and must stay in Devon until they close out the case… Patrick and the others pursue the victims past, follow the available evidence and interview the suspects.
Each time I read this series, I am delighted for yet one more chance to be along with Patrick Shea whether it is on a case or as he tries to figure out the rest of his life. Patrick is the story so there is a lot riding on him having just the sort of personality and character that draws in the reader and engages them in his story. Fortunately, he is a brilliantly written character so it really works. He’s a middle-aged amicably divorced man. He admits that his work broke up his family and now its almost all he has besides his son. He’s fairly good looking and attracts women easily though he gets in trouble with that most of the time. He’s a tenacious detective. But really, when all’s said and done, he’s an ordinary bloke- as he would call himself- and has his faults and make mistakes. Patrick narrates each story and I love being inside his head as he goes about things. His wry humor, temper, stubborn determination, and the way he sees people is more than interesting.
I loved the change of setting to Devon and found it amusing as he floundered in the country and amongst the Jane Austen lovers. I laughed over how a Janeite or a JAFF fan appears to the rest of the world. Patrick was respectful and was curious enough to attempt to read Pride & Prejudice to better understand as he worked the case just like before things went crazy, he really tried to see what the fuss was about when it came to the countryside and the sites around that area of Devon… But I confess to missing time with his Shea Irish family and more time with Tommy, his guv, his son and even his ex-wife. It was obvious that he was also kicking around a decision with the state of affairs in his love life too. Though about that, it was hilarious how many people had an opinion or questioned him even total strangers. Oh, and that last bit of surprise at the end about a woman from his past? The author is a tease.
The mystery in this one isn’t as intense as some of the others in the series. It’s still a police procedural, but it has a touch of the cozy mystery feel too since its a country setting and the murder took place at an isolated inn. It was also interesting that for the first time, Patrick actually gets to know the victim while alive and is on the spot to meet the other people and gauge things before it all goes terribly bad. I had my suspicions, but alas, I was only half right.
All in all, it was another good installment leaving me wanting more. More Patrick, please! If you are looking for a series with an underdog hero that’s engaging, charming and even a bit sexy who solves puzzling crimes the old fashioned way through tenacity, intuitiveness and brains, then check these out.