Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Quiet Road to Death: Review

Things are getting a bit gruesome in the village of Breckham Market.  First, a young woman's body is found in a quiet lay-by just outside of town.  The police have not been able to identify her because the murderer decapitated her and removed the head.  Then someone leaves a vicious message on Angela Arrowsmith's doorstep--her own Siamese cat, decapitated as well, and the words "Your Turn Next" spray painted on the door.  While Chief Inspector Douglas Quantrill and his new Detective Sergeant Hilary Lord are trying to track down clues in the murder and the mutilation of the cat, someone is planning another death--and soon Angela joins the tally of victims.  Did she know something about the first woman's death?  Is that why Angela had to die?  Or has someone taken advantage of the circumstances to focus suspicions elsewhere?  After all, maybe Angela's husband Simon has finally realized that he'd gotten a raw deal in the marriage market.  Or maybe her brother is tired of being her galley slave. Perhaps her brother-in-law can't stand having the family name dragged through the more time.  Or...there are those shady connections from her barmaid days.  It all makes for an interesting investigation as Quantrill tries to get used to his first female second-in-command.

Written in 1983, The Quiet Road to Death by Sheila Radley gives us a glimpse of what it was like for the male detective branch to take on female detectives.  They'd gotten used to women in uniform, but there is still a "boys club" feel to the detective service.  Quantrill wavers between feeling that Lord will be a distraction for the men to thinking that her charms might well soften up male suspects.  He's obviously trying hard to work through his rather chauvinistic views and by the end of the novel they have struck an uneasy balance.  There will definitely be some further growing pains for this working relationship in any future novels.

The mystery itself is generally okay.  There aren't a great number of suspects, so it doesn't take much to figure out whodunnit and I'm a little hesitant about the motive...but it ultimately works.  I will have to say that Angela is a thoroughly unlikeable wench and I didn't shed any tears over her death.  Poor Simon really was being railroaded.  The most interesting part of this story is watching the integration of Hilary Lord into the detective team--understanding how groundbreaking that was for women in the police force as late as the early '80s.  Not a knock-out mystery, but I will definitely be trying more to see how the relationship develops.  Three stars.

1 comment:

Peggy Ann said...

another one to be on the lookout for! thanks Bev.