RogerBW's Blog

The Mill on the Shore, Ann Cleeves 19 December 2016

1994 detective fiction; seventh of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. Jimmy Morrissey was the public voice of environmentalism and conservation, but killed himself with an overdose of antidepressants. Or did he?

It's well worth reading this after Another Man's Poison: then George and Molly were competing with each other and messing up the investigation as a result, but now they are working hard on collaborating, and do a rather better job. It's a well-drawn picture of people who've been married for years discovering new things about their relationship.

That's effectively mixed with the actual investigation. George and Molly are brought in by Morrissey's widow, his second wife, who writes articles about being the Perfect Mother and is probably the nastiest person in the book (though she has competition); she's not willing to accept that it was suicide. There's plenty of digging into the past: Morrissey's draft autobiography has vanished, and it slowly becomes apparent that he was planning to make rather more of an impact with it than anyone might have expected. There's an ex-wife about, and a textile company that surely wouldn't be mentioned if it weren't going to matter, and Jimmy's known reputations for philandering and self-aggrandisement.

The plot structure and pacing are a little odd, though I can't go into details without giving things away. There's not much about means and opportunities, though they're mentioned a little; this is more a story of motivation, and one's trying to work out who would have wanted to kill Jimmy rather than who could have.

A slightly unconventional book, but not hurt thereby. Followed by High Island Blues.

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