Thursday, August 20, 2015
Star Fall - Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Rowland Egerton is an expert on Antiques Galore!, a TV program that sounds very similar to the BBC's Antiques Roadshow. The program visits various locations, experts appraise objects brought along by members of the public who are amazed or horrified by the valuations. Egerton is one of the stars of the show; handsome, debonair, charming. One afternoon, Egerton is found dead in his home, stabbed in the throat. His business partner & friend, John Lavender, who discovered the body, is shocked & distraught. Slider & his bagman, Jim Atherton, are quickly on the scene & realise that this is no random burglary gone wrong. There was no sign of forced entry & only two objects, out of the vast array of antiques on display, are missing. A green malachite Fabergé box & a painting by Berthe Morisot. Neither object was fabulously expensive so there must have been a reason why the killer only stole those two pieces.
As Slider's team begins to investigate, Egerton's public persona as the charming expert is dented quite a bit. He'd changed his name, left his wife & daughter & had many affairs. His colleagues also accused him of pinching the most promising objects to feature on the show & of buying the best objects from their flattered, star-struck owners after the show. Egerton & Lavender owned an antiques shop which was mostly bankrolled by Egerton although it was Lavender who had the real knowledge of antiques that propped up Egerton's role as an expert. It soon becomes clear that there were several people with a motive to kill Egerton. Politics, forgery & the television business all have a role to play in solving the murder of Rowland Egerton.
Apart from the puzzle element of this series, I really enjoy catching up with the characters. Bill's wife, Joanna, is a musician & they have a son, George. Joanna suffered a miscarriage at the end of the previous book & they're both still coming to terms with it. Jim Atherton is a ladies man who looked as though he was finally ready to settle down with Emily until his inability to stay faithful doomed the relationship. The rest of the team are just as individual & I enjoy the procedural element of the book. No flashes of brilliant deduction, just dogged police work - interviewing potential witnesses, looking at CCTV footage & asking lots of questions. My favourite character is Slider's boss, Porson. His speech is full of malapropisms. I always like to quote a few of Porson's most beautifully mangled sentences,
Porson went on, "Well, keep me informed. The instant you've got something. And don't go plunging in irregardless, like a bowl in a china shop."
"I want all your ducks in a row before I go in to bat. This is a whole new kettle of worms you're opening up."
"I know, sir," said Slider. It was never a good sign when Porson's imagery started to fracture.
The atmosphere of this book is a little more downbeat, in tune with Bill's worry about Joanna. The wintry weather is also very much in tune with Bill's melancholy & the depressing dead ends of the investigation. I picked up Star Fall when I was reading several big books & needed a change. It's been a while since I read a contemporary detective novel & I read this in just a few days. Bill & his team are reliably entertaining & I'm looking forward to the next Slider mystery, One Under, which is published in November.