Thursday, November 22, 2012

Suspicious Minds - Martin Edwards

Harry Devlin is a Liverpool lawyer who we first met in All the Lonely People. In that book, Harry's estranged wife, Liz, was murdered &, finding himself a suspect, he decides to do a little investigating of his own to discover the killer. In Suspicious Minds, Harry is still mourning Liz & still getting too involved in his clients' problems.

Jack Stirrup is a businessman who made a fortune in the wine business. His wife, Alison, has disappeared & the police suspect that Jack had something to do with it. Alison's mother, Doreen, has always hated Jack & she's pushing the police to arrest him even though there's no evidence to suggest that Alison is dead. Jack's daughter from his first marriage, Claire, is a sulky teenager who disliked her stepmother & is driving her father crazy with her relationship with law student Peter Kuiper. Jack disapproves of Kuiper but his disapproval only makes Claire more determined to pursue the relationship. Jack isn't short of enemies, including ex-employee Trevor Morgan, sacked for harassing the female staff.

Then there's the Beast. A series of attacks on young, blonde women has everyone worried. The attacks have escalated from indecent assault to rape. Has blonde Alison become the Beast's latest victim? Harry can't be sure that Jack wasn't involved in Alison's disappearance & he does what he can to find out where Alison is. But, when Claire goes missing & is then found murdered, her body surrounded by red roses, the case becomes much more complicated.

I'm so pleased that the Harry Devlin series is available again. Harry is a flawed but sympathetic character. The suspicious minds of the title include Harry himself as he tentatively pursues a relationship with barrister Valerie Kaiwar & finds himself unsure of her feelings & jealous of her close friendship with a colleague. Harry is a fair, honest lawyer who does his best for his clients but isn't always able to sort out his own life. There's a melancholy about Harry that's very appealing.

The Liverpool setting is gritty & I love the details of Harry's office life with incompetent & unhelpful staff & his calm, unflappable partner, Joe Crusoe. The pace is snappy & the plot is as tangled as any crime fan could wish. I also love the fact that the books are about 200 pages long. I'm not a fan of very long mystery novels. I think the ideal length for a mystery is 200-250 pages, probably because I enjoy reading the Golden Age novelists who rarely wrote long novels. Martin Edwards improves on a lot of the writers of that period though because he values character & place as much as plot & puzzle. I'm so pleased that I have five more novels in the series to read.

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