RogerBW's Blog

An Uninvited Corpse, Blythe Baker 04 July 2024

2021 historical mystery; third in Baker's Anna Fairweather series (1920s amateur detection). Mrs Montford is having her portrait painted. At the end of the session, she sends Anna after the painter to change an appointment; Anna's just in time to see him stabbed in the street.

This felt repetitious. The basic idea is that Anna doesn't want to be an investigator, and tries to avoid getting involved with the murders she keeps witnessing, but somehow collects all the evidence anyway.

The thing is, this series premise robs the story of its character motivations. In a standard mystery the investigator, amateur or professional, is driven to find out what happened and bring a killer to justice, whether from duty, friendship with the deceased, fear for their own life, or whatever else. But Anna doesn't have any of those motives; she'd be quite happy to leave it all to the police, and so there has to be a series of coincidences to bring more evidence to her attention. All of which makes her a very passive protagonist.

And for a third time in three books Anna comes to work out what's happened while in conversation with the murderer, who realises and attacks her. Which I suppose is the only way to bring on a resolution other than telling the police and letting them resolve everything, but that would at least be a bit of variation (and I've seen it work in other mysteries).

There's also a carefully rationed series of revelations about Anna's past, and a very slow romance, which are meant to provide the series' long-term interest: why did Colonel Montford hire Anna out of the orphanage? What really happened to her father? For the full answer, I assume, we have to wait until book 6. But I find myself lacking any enthusiasm for the process of getting there.

I liked the first book, but it seems to have been one of a kind. Series abandoned.

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Previous in series: An Unfortunate Demise | Series: Anna Fairweather

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