RogerBW's Blog

High Island Blues, Ann Cleeves 23 June 2017

1996 detective fiction; eighth and apparently last of Cleeves's novels of amateur private detectives George and Molly Palmer-Jones. George is commissioned to look into a possible charity fraud, then whipped off to Texas to assist an old birdwatching friend who's being accused of murder.

The small marsh-bound town of High Island, on the Texas coast, is the setting for most of this book, and it's a curiously odd fit for Cleeves' mannered style of writing; the hotel may be filled with British birders, but she still tries and mostly fails to give an American feel to the story.

As often in Cleeves' books, the answers lie in the past, with three former university friends getting back together twenty years after their months-long summer birding trip, and one of them soon to be murdered. Alas, though, it's mostly from George's viewpoint, with Molly stuck at home looking into the background of the victim, and quietly solving the case while George goes about getting nowhere.

Alas, as usually with Cleeves, everyone here is at least mildly broken and unpleasant, and one can't really feel much sympathy for the victim, or care when the murderer is caught in a climactic scene that doesn't fit well with the rest of the narrative.

It's all right, I suppose, and the writing is excellent as ever, but this one feels like a misstep after the previous two volumes.

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Previous in series: The Mill on the Shore | Series: George and Molly Palmer-Jones

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