Sunday, October 02, 2011

A "Must Read": THE BLOOD ROYAL by Barbara Cleverly

Soho Press brought out the new newest Barbara Cleverly detective novel featuring Joe Sandilands last month, THE BLOOD ROYAL. It's a keeper -- a smoothly written and delicious classic detective story, as the Metropolitan Police Commander returns in 1922 to England after a lengthy posting to India. Between assignments to control Irish terrorism and high-profile assassination attempts, a White Russian spy network, and reestablishing himself at New Scotland Yard, Joe is beset by enormous challenges. Tightly plotted and full of insight into England's postwar politics, this is a sweeping and lively book with likable characters and entertaining twists.

But -- that's not why I'm saying it's a "Must Read."

Cleverly's two series have been frequently underrated, and she's often waited much longer than deserved for and recognition. As an example, although shortlisted in 1999, Cleverly finally received the Crime Writers Association Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award in 2004. And even her fans (including her publishers) seem unable to count her books: I count nine in the Joe Sandilands series, three with Laetitia Talbot (archaeologist turned detective), and one stand-alone, for a total of 13 novels so far, following a previous career as a teacher.

So it's simple math (and a dash of intuition or insight) that leads me to suspect Cleverly will scoop up awards in the near future, and with Soho Press now behind her, she has a clear field for publishing more of these well-written investigations.

Wouldn't it be great to know all of her books before the next award is announced? But if there isn't time for that, it makes sense to at least move THE BLOOD ROYAL onto the Must Read shelf. Yes?

* * *

A sample from the book:
"I saw her," [Joe Sandilands] said. "Briefly before they drove her home. Stunner! She'd certainly have diverted the admiral's and the driver's attention. Yes, two dark-clad men, profiting from a distraction, could have got across the road without being spotted. And they were wearing rubber-soled shoes. In any case, any sound would have been masked by the noise of the taxi engine, which had been left running." He heaved a sigh. "The admiral dismissed the cabby, and strolled down to his front door. The moment he stood on the doorstep, off guard and backlit by the hall lights, they struck."

"I'm wondering why the cabby didn't set off at once, sir?"

"Waiting -- as he'd said he would -- to make sure all was well?" Sandilands suggested. "Some sort of argy-bargy with the girl? Checking directions?"

He broke off and then said, with decision: "But look here -- that's enough desk work. Before we go to the hospital, or the jail, why don't I take you out to look at the scene?"

* * *
COLLECTOR'S NOTE: The Soho/Constable cover shown here differs from the ARC and from the US and UK online market versions. I'm still trying to sort this out.

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