And the jogging suit. Oh, God, the jogging suit. Everything else he possessed was sitting in the washing machine, soaking wet. He’d missed the jogging suit, which was just as well, really. If only he’d missed a sweater and jeans. But no, he had to come back looking as though he was on holiday. He’d seen the look that passed between Lloyd and the doctor. It wasn’t his fault. The colour drained from his face again, but he fought it this time….
Steve had been given accommodation, he had been fed, he had been looked after better than Beale’s mother would have been. He just hadn’t been able to leave. Not that Beale had actually said so, or locked him in or anything.
Beale was introducing him to his solicitor, a thinly handsome fortyish West Indian in an expensive grey suit. Steve frowned. ‘ I don’t get it,’ he said.
Beale sighed. ‘ Steve, if I had let you go last night just after I’d told you about Mrs Austin, what would you have done?’
‘Run,’ said Steve, with feeling.
commentary: Jill McGown truly was one of the greats in crime fiction at the end of the 20th century, and I can’t imagine why she isn’t better known and better-remember – she died in 2007. Her books are intricate and very clever, they have great, believable characters, and wonderful crime plots with excellent clues.
This one sounds as though it is going to be a cozy, with perhaps Mrs A and Mrs B being competing bakers at the WI. Well far from it – as ever McGown’s quiet market towns have all kinds of things going on in them, and the relationships are weird and compelling, and often rather exotic amid banal-seeming trappings. She had a great understanding of human motives and drives.
The opening section is slightly off, because of course we know from the title who the victims are, so it is slightly odd that there is a tension about who died and where and when. But once you get going this plot is a complete pageturner with a most satisfying ending.
She’s a glancing, witty writer - I love lines like this:
[The two heavies] on either side of Steve tensed up. Beale wasn’t happy, and they knew that. You’d swear they were almost human, thought Steve.And
‘I shouldn’t by rights be doing this,’ he said, leading the way. ‘But none of the directors has come in this morning.’ No, thought Mickey. There’s a good reason for that [violent deaths], as you are about to find out.And
But rather like judging a talent contest, everyone’s second choice won.As well as the excellent plot, the book contained many fascinating glimpses of its publication date of 1991. A character has a Filofax, and that is worth commenting on. Access to the block of flats is important:
It was odd, talking to a camera and having a wall answer. Lloyd rather wished he had been around in the days of hansom cabs and Sherlock Holmes. He could have called the Great Detective in, and gone to the south of France with Judy while he sorted it all out. ‘Come up,’ said Beale, and the door buzzed, and clicked. The Great Detective would have had his work cut out getting into the bloody building, never mind sorting out what had gone on there.Lloyd and his colleague and lover Judy are one of the least-annoying couples in crime fiction.
Looking at the lawyer in his expensive suit – Bill Selnes of Mysteries and More is my go-to guy when it comes to lawyers’ clothing and general gents’ nattiness (and various other Clothes in Books areas too, such as practicality and cold-weather gear). I will be interested to hear his verdict on the outfit above.
There’s a couple of other Jill McGown books on the blog – I’m enjoying slowly going through them all.