reviewed by Gail Byrd
It’s 1963, and between an outbreak of the flu and the unprecedented snowstorm that has paralyzed roads across the country, Britain has come close to a standstill. Despite the freezing cold, when WPC Trudy Loveday is called into her superior’s office and assigned the task of identifying a dead body found in a car, she is thrilled.
Sure, it’s probably nothing, if the inspector suspected there was more to it he would never assign Trudy. True to the era, he believes women have no business on the police force and spends most of his time trying to dissuade Trudy from her chosen career.
For her part, Trudy sees it as an opportunity to finally do something a little more than paperwork. She also suggests Dr. Ryder accompany her in order to pronounce the dead body, hoping he will be agreeable to go out in the dreadful weather. Of course, Dr. Ryder welcomes the opportunity to work with Trudy and they both head out in the cold, despite the misgivings of Dr. Ryder’s visiting son.
So begins the seventh in the Ryder and Loveday series by Faith Martin. As the reader probably expects, the death is not a simple car crash victim or a result of the weather; but something much more serious. Dr. Ryder is almost immediately suspicious after examining the victim’s eyes. Now the problem for Ryder and Trudy is how to prevent the inspector from removing them from the case.
With that in mind when definite information of foul play is discovered they decide to place the report on the inspector’s desk. They just happen to place it under some additional piles of paperwork, hoping Trudy doesn’t run into the inspector and she can delay reporting to him for a while longer.
Dr. Ryder’s son Vincent who is home for a visit, also gets drawn in and after some initial misgivings becomes as fully engaged as Trudy and the elder Ryder. Dr. Ryder is pleased to see the change in his son’s attitude. The only problem he has now is trying to keep his growing symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease a secret. So far, he has been successful, but his tremors and unsteady gait are getting more difficult to disguise.
As to the murder, the victim is a young man who has been romancing a slightly older widow who is convinced he is a man of good breeding, when in truth, he is from a much lower social status. Her twin children, a girl and a boy, have seen through him and recognize he’s interested in marrying their mother for her money. They are determined to prevent that occurrence since it would lessen the amount of their own inheritance.
Additional suspects include the young man’s business partner who has recently learned he has been stealing from their company. Then there’s his wife, who he left behind along with their child. She’s spent some time searching for him, not because she wants him back but because she wants to blackmail him for a piece of his expected pie.
While this series has had a well plotted mystery in each book, a major part of the story has also been Ryder’s struggle with his worsening Parkinson’s while keeping it from Trudy and this book is no exception. From beginning to end, it’s classic Martin, and starting the book is like sitting down with an old friend. The reader is swept along with the investigation and intrigued with the side relationships that offer occasional glimpses into the pair’s personal lives. As in the previous books, there are still questions regarding these personal issues that will whet the curiosity of those who are invested in the series.
While the mystery is self-contained, many readers will find this more enjoyable reading it as part of the series, beginning with the first book and reading them in order. In addition to good mysteries and engaging personal relationship developments, this series also offers an excellent picture of what life was like in the 1960’s for women in the police force in England.
I read an advance copy of the book for this review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
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