RogerBW's Blog

Pursued by Shadows, Medora Sale 06 January 2020

1992 mystery, fifth in the John Sanders/Harriet Jeffries series. Harriet's old flame Guy, who dumped her and ran off with her assistant, shows up again in Toronto… but not for long.

This is a deliberately complex mystery, and one that unlike earlier series entries doesn't have much of a police procedural component. An initial incident leaves at least two lots of bad guys chasing after both a sum of money and "a document, brown and dirty, about twelve inches long and perhaps half as wide, folded first in half, and then in thirds"; since the good guys don't know just who did what or what the document is, Sale keeps it from the reader too, which makes scenes dealing with people who do know what's going on (or at least some of it) a bit awkward.

So Guy turns up at Harriet's, hassles her, and gets thrown out by John. When Guy turns up dead in the apartment a few days later, John obviously becomes a suspect – for all he was out of town at the time, so it's never a major concern, but his partner does an excellent job of not eliminating him from the inquiry just because he knows he's a good guy.

After the last book which focused on secondary characters, this one's back to John and Harriet, which means their banter's back on form, and since that's one of the things I like best about this series that's a point in its favour for me. The secondary viewpoint, that of the former assistant, suffers because she's keeping things from everyone; she knows why she's calling on people to do things, but they don't and we don't, so it feels arbitrary – while of course one can use it to put together some clues about what might be going on, they're not clues that the investigators have available, and in that respect I appear to have purist tendencies.

But it's still an enjoyable book, and while I wouldn't recommend starting the series here (it helps if you already have some idea of who John and Harriet are and what they've been through, not because you'll be confused without it but because the emotional strength of the narrative builds on that prior knowledge) it's a decent continuation.

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Previous in series: Sleep of the Innocent | Series: John Sanders-Harriet Jeffries | Next in series: Short Cut to Santa Fe

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