Hello, friends and fellow bibliophiles!
Today I have an exciting book review for you all; a new novel by an up-and-coming indie author, Rachel Heffington, whose previous titles, Fly Away Home and The Windy Side of Care, have already delighted readers.
She's trying something new with today's book, Anon, Sir, Anon, and branching out into the world of mystery. Rachel very kindly sent me an advance review copy, and I'm thrilled to feature her work here on the blog!
The 12:55 out of Darlington brought more than Orville Farnham's niece; murder was passenger.
In coming to Whistlecreig, Genevieve Langley expected to find an ailing uncle in need of gentle care. In reality, her charge is a cantankerous Shakespearean actor with a penchant for fencing and an affinity for placing impossible bets.
When a body shows up in a field near Whistlecreig Manor and Vivi is the only one to recognize the victim, she is unceremoniously baptized into the art of crime-solving: a field in which first impressions are seldom lasting and personal interest knocks at the front door.
Set against the russet backdrop of a Northamptonshire fog, Anon, Sir, Anon cuts a cozy path to a chilling crime.
Since the story centers around Vivi and Farnham, their relationship is the key to the book's success, and Rachel wrote them with deft touches of sarcasm and banter that endeared them to me instantly. In a way, they're so opposite--old man, young woman, seasoned Shakespearean actor, young up and coming society girl who likes a good dance. But each has a personality that sets them apart from their circle of acquaintance and fits them perfectly together. They are a well-matched detective duo, combining steady wisdom and fresh daring, and I look forward to watching them partner together in further mysteries. The uncle and niece aspect added a unique touch.
And Farnham's prayers with his "liege Lord" were spectacular.
I loved the numerous off-hand references to the Bible. From the most dedicated Christians to the most hard-minded stage managers, they are subtly and yet boldly included. Rachel inserts hints of Christianity, but the characters are neither perfect nor unbelievable. They all have faults; some of them have flawed thinking; but she writes the story as a whole from a solid foundation, and that's how a good book should be.
Not only are the main characters well crafted, but the supporting cast is excellent as well. From gentlemanly Scotsman Doctor Breen to carefree Jimmy Fields, to brooding Michael Maynor and the various home folk around the town, they feel like the sort of people you've known for a hundred years even though you only just met them.
Anon, Sir, Anon, contains several instances of mild language. I don't like language and that didn't particularly enhance it for me, but all in all it could have been worse and wouldn't put me off from getting the next book or reading this one again. Also, those particularly sensitive to romance may not enjoy a couple of passages with Vivi's eager suitors; but they were appropriately handled. This book is written well for a variety of ages, and since it's mainly intended for young adult and adult readers, it includes mature content for such.
Rachel employs deft strokes of description between the creepy old Rowan walk, the appearance of the countryside, and the quirky atmosphere of the local talk. Part of what makes this novel is the attention shown to detail; descriptions are never lengthy, but they're enough to take the tale from an average thriller to a little step above. A literary mystery, if you will. "As cold and dead as a penny in a well" is just one example. For the most part, I was impressed.
The only complaint I had plotting wise was that the actual investigation took a little too long to get on its feet, and we got to see more of the dead-end ideas during the twists and turns than the Right Idea itself. Mysteries generally follow the method of either laying out everything for the reader to guess, or giving them a taste of the adventure and revealing the solution in a grand finale afterwards. Anon, Sir, Anon falls most definitely in the latter category. Since I like to keep a running competition with myself to guess the book's plot before the end, my ego was wounded that I didn't have enough to go on. ;)
The climax is spectacular. Surprising, deliciously suspenseful, and avoiding the common pitfalls that authors fall into. Rachel held just enough secrets from me so I could enjoy the suspense--and then, when the moment came for boldness, carried it off with aplomb. Bravo; well done!
Anon, Sir, Anon, shines all the way through on the various levels that make a book a pleasure to read, but by far, the point I took away most was the way she handled the murder itself. Most murder mysteries consist of an anonymous, not terribly sympathetic body that serves as a prop to show off the detective's prowess. The murder in this book is there for a cozy read, and also there to show off Vivi and Farnham's prowess, but at the same time, it's not just a body. It's a person. And the book loses none of its entertainment qualities for forcing the readers to think--shocking them a great deal--so that we're not just indifferent consumers.
Oh, yes. This is the type of book that gets me excited. Dominion-minded, and crafted with excellence. I highly recommend it.
On November 5th, this warm and endearing British mystery releases to the public. Mark your calendars for Anon, Sir, Anon by Rachel Heffington, and in the meantime, keep an eye out on her blog, The Inkpen Authoress, for the cover reveal.