RogerBW's Blog

Dying for Millions, Judith Cutler 25 November 2017

1998 mystery; fourth of Cutler's novels of Sophie Rivers, a teacher in a sixth-form college in Birmingham. Sophie's cousin Andy is a rock legend, planning to retire and devote himself to good causes; but it seems that someone wants him dead.

Though this time Sophie's much more of a spectator than she has been before; she does some investigation on her own, and deals with some of the minor matters, but the real mystery is left to others to resolve. There's rather too much coincidence, and one of my less favourite answers to "why would anyone do this".

But the mystery is more than ever an excuse to write about Sophie and the high-pressure life she's found herself in (here she's often unable even to get to lunch thanks to meetings and other unscheduled work). Indeed, I found Cutler's grip on the main story just a little loose for my taste; all right, Sophie's an interesting person to read about, but this is meant to be a murder mystery too.

As I consider earlier books in the series, I see things that worked well there repeated here: the cast of secondary characters who feel like real people, and who manage to avoid being entirely good or entirely bad; the multicultural aspects of modern Birmingham; the multiple concurrent plots, of which some will never be completely resolved because that's what life is like.

But nobody is Dying for Millions here; indeed, Andy's wealth barely seems relevant to the story. There's perhaps a bit too much going on, with Sophie supervising work placements, lecturing, singing, putting up her cousin, and trying to solve the murder, and it would have been nice to see some more of the previous books' characters returning (Sophie is curiously lacking in female friends). Overall it still works pretty well, though.

Followed by Dying for Power.

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