Monday, August 15, 2011

The Elberg Collection: Review

The Elberg Collection by Anthony Oliver is a bit of a transcontinental mystery. One year ago David and Jane Walton were visiting one of their favorite places in France, a small resort town by the name of Le Bosquet, when tragedy struck. According to witnesses, they were strolling, completely alone, along the beach when Jane's dress suddenly went up in flames. Before anyone could save them, the couple were dead. The local authorities ascribe the deaths to a "freak accident"--blaming a brisk wind and sparks from David's pipe. The Walton's daughter learns of the details of her parents' death nearly a year later and is not satisfied with the official verdict.

With the help of her wealthy husband, Hans Elberg, Jessica hires John Webber, former Detective Inspector and fledgling private investigator, to see if her suspicions have any merit. Webber's irrepressible housekeeper and companion, Lizzie Thomas, has urged the retired policeman to put his talents to work and the Elberg case is his first attempt at an official private inquiry. Webber uses h
is contacts with the police to investigate in England--tracking down business rivals, art experts, and family secrets. He sends Lizzie, with her working knowledge of French, to Le Bosquet to find out if there are details about the tragedy that didn't make the newspapers and the official reports. What they find will disrupt the business world, threaten the artistic pottery field, and make them both targets in an on-going game of cat and mouse.
This is an engaging little mystery. I like John Webber and Lizzie very much. I've met them before in Oliver's first mystery, The Pew Group, and this outing only confirms my fondness for the characters. I am a little disappointed with the pacing and the fact that I was quite sure who the culprit was before I was even half-way through the book. (I was right, by the way.) Oliver spends a bit too much time describing and telling rather than showing and letting the characters make the story for him. But the characters are good and I was certainly interested enough in the mystery--the finer details of exactly how it was carried out, for instance--that I will go on and read the remaining two titles in his series. Three stars for a fairly solid mystery with great characters.

1 comment:

John said...

I thought a left a comment here... Dang Blogger messin' with me again. Repeat coming:

I liked your tour guide vibe going on in this review. Sounds like an art mystery from the title. Or even a bibliomystery. Could it be either?

I think Aubert was being slyly subversive and sending up the whole idea of the amateur sleuth in creating someone like Elise. It's really a remarkable feat. If you find a copy and like it do make sure to write it up on the blog. I'll be eager to read your thoughts on DEATH FROM THE WOODS.