Monday, May 21, 2018

Barbara Cleverly, British Mystery Author, Launches New Series, FALL OF ANGELS

Change has its challenges. If you've read your way through all 13 books of Barbara Cleverly's Joe Sandilands series, with its ex-military, ex-India investigator easing open the layers of British society between the two world wars, take a deep breath. Pretend you're reading a new author. And step into the 1923 world of Detective Inspector John Redfyre. There, it's not so terrible if you don't try to imagine a 14th Sandilands book, right?

And for the rest of you -- readers of British mysteries old and new, and investigators of that mysterious interlude after the Great War and before the bombings that will crush London -- welcome to the smooth, polished writing of one of the heirs of the Dorothy Sayers mystery tradition. Cleverly keeps a tight plot, never loses track of her red herrings, and plays fairly with the rules of the genre: Search for motive, means, and opportunity, and try to solve the case a page or two before the protagonist announces how it all went!

FALL OF ANGELS provides a wide cast of smart women to balance DI Redfyre's appearance. Pressing for equal representation in the vote, and also in the Oxford and Cambridge colleges, Cleverly's women range widely. There's the highly attractive and clever young trumpeter, Juno Proudfoot, making her academic debut at a Christmas concert that Redfyre's been manipulated into attending (way up front). And there's Redfyre's fiercely independent Aunt Henrietta, who seems to think she can gently nudge her nephew into a planned role in the battle for the fair sex. And, of course, Redfyre's own friends -- a circle rapidly growing.

His superiors and peers are not as well equipped to infiltrate England's conservative social scene, so Redfyre must tackle the case mostly alone. Fortunately, he's aware of Aunt Henrietta's proclivities, so when an emergency erupts, he's ready to take charge:
Redfyre firmly drew the doctor aside and spoke to him quietly. "I'd rather she didn't skip off. Miss Stretton will be staying with me for the moment. She's a witness to what may well turn out to be a crime."

"A crime?" The doctor looked back at Juno in some puzzlement. "Fallling down a dark staircase is hardly a crime, surely."

"Attempted murder is a crime in my book," said Redfyre. "This apparent accident will be investigated as such ... I would be most grateful if you could bear that in mind when you carry out your more detailed examination at the hospital."

"Indeed? Well, of course. A sort of 'ante-mortem' report? Understood."
That sort of military conspiring of the men on scene works out well for Redfyre. But to get to the truth of the case, he'll have to sort through the much more devious plans of the women instead. (I did mention Dorothy Sayers, didn't I?)

Once I stopped mourning the absence of Joe Sandilands, I enjoyed FALL OF ANGELS. I'm interested in seeing how Cleverly, one of the true professionals of the British "traditional mystery" genre, will draw us further into the complicated 1920s and the rather pleasant interior of her new detective, in the titles yet to come. From Soho Crime, a Soho Press imprint.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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