Monday, November 4, 2013

Kemp's Last Case: Review

Kemp's Last Case really is the last mystery featuring solicitor Lennox Kemp in the series by M. R. D. Meek.  Margaret Reid Duncan Meek was 65 when she published her first Kemp story, With Flowers That Fell, in 1983.  Kemp starts out as a disbarred solicitor turned private eye, but returns to a solicitor's practice during the course of the novels.  Kemp's Last Case was published in 2004 and Meek passed away in November of 2009.

In this final mystery, Lennox is now happily married and a doting father with a steady practice.  But he is still unable to resist the lure of a mystery.  He has been charged with the disposal of the property and earthly goods of the late Dr Ayres.  His duty to organize the property for sale to benefit her various charities.  As he clears out an ancient roll-top desk, he comes across diaries and newspaper articles referring to a twenty-year-old murder case.

Seven-year-old Rickie Fenwick had been abducted, assaulted, and then murdered and all evidence pointed to a man who died of cancer before he could be brought to trial.  There are several odd entries in the diaries which rouse Kemp's curiosity.  He had arrived in town the year after the tragedy--at which point no one was talking about it.  And no one wants to talk about it now.  Every time Lennox broaches the subject, people clam up.  Just after he discovers the materials in Dr. Ayres's desk, he is reintroduced to Lettice Warrender and her husband, Dr. Aumary.  Lettice, Tovril (or Tod as he's now known) and Lettice's brother Roger were all in the town when Rickie went missing.  Kemp tries to use his old connections to get to the bottom of what really happened on that hot August day twenty years ago...but somebody doesn't want to revisit the past and doesn't mind eliminating Kemp if need be.

***Possible spoiler ahead***

I'm in two minds about this one.  I really like Lennox Kemp.  He's a down-to-earth character.  Even though I haven't read any of the previous 13 books, I didn't feel like I needed to.  You get to know Kemp right away and Meek quickly fills in the background of why Kemp was disbarred and what he's done about it since.  Although he was disbarred for embezzlement, we instantly understand his motives and believe that at bottom he's an honest man.  He's certainly a solicitor that I would want on my side.  And he's tenacious when it comes to ferreting out the facts.  That's all to the good.  The difficulty?  I saw the solution coming from the moment the villain appeared on the page.  I didn't know quite how--but I definitely knew who.  No attempts to confuse the readers.  No red herrings.  And, honestly, it's not as if clues were thick on the ground.  It's just that what was there was telegraphed.  My other problem?  That whole child murder thing.  I don't do it well.  Fortunately, the details on the actual assault are sparse, so it wasn't as bad as it could be.  But it was enough to detract from the pleasure.  Two and a half stars.  Rounded to three on Goodreads.

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