Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Chief Inspector's Daughter: Review

The Chief Inspector's Daughter by Sheila Radley (1980) looks to be a typical British police procedural set in a small English market town. The well-loved romance novelist Jasmine Woods, beloved by her readers--including Chief Inspector Douglas Quantrill's wife and daughter--was evidently not universally loved among her relatives and neighbors. She is found beaten to death one morning in a particularly brutal crime that has every evidence of a robbery gone wrong. After all, Jasmine's exquisite collection of jade and netsuke has disappeared. But the severity of the wounds leads Quantrill and his Detective Sergeant Tait to believe that hate may have been the driving force behind Jasmine's death. The one small twist that makes this an atypical British police procedural is that the one person who could shed some light on Jasmine's life before the murder is Quantrill's own daughter Alison. Unfortunately, Alison has disappeared and is unavailable for questioning.

Alison came home from London after a love affair gone wrong. In need of employment, she meets Jasmine and has the good fortune to become the novelist's secretary...and, eventually, friend. It is Alison who finds Jasmine's beaten body and, initially, she is too shaken and shocked to be questioned. Her emotional reaction is so strong that she leaves home and goes into hiding rather than be questioned by her father and his team. Her last known whereabouts put her in the vicinity of one of Quantrill's primary suspects and he has to face his fears for her safety as well as deal with his official displeasure that a witness has done a runner.

Without his daughter to help him learn about the novelist's life, he must use the knowledge that he and his sergeant picked up at a party Jasmine put on several weeks before her death. A party where it seemed that the main activity for the guests was to find ways to subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) insult their hostess. Everyone from her brother-in-law and cousin, both of whom resent her success and wealth, to the antiques dealer who resents the value of her oriental collection--some of the pieces which he sold to her far too cheaply--to her neighbor who covets her body and resents that he cannot have it. For more background, Quantrill turns to Jasmine's previous secretary, Anne. But everything he learns seems to provide more suspects rather than narrowing the field. If only Alison would turn up and tell him what she knows....

As I mentioned in my review of A Quiet Road to Death, Sheila Radley (pen-name of Sheila Mary Robinson) writes a decent British mystery. This one has a few more suspects, so it wasn't as easy to spot the killer here as it was in my previous read. There is plenty of suspicion to go around and it is a pleasure to watch Quantrill and Tait work their way through the questioning. There are clues...hard to spot (I didn't), but available if you happen to pick up on them. By the end of the novel, I had decided on just about everyone at one time or another...except the actual culprit. Well done, on misdirection. The motive is also stronger in this one--particularly for the time period (there's a tiny little pointer for you). And Alison is the one who provides the information necessary to really understand the motive. 

One quibble I have--is Tait's reaction to Alison at the end. I cannot explain this without spoiling the motive (and pointing the way to the culprit), so I'll just have to say that it's rather offensive that he thinks he can fix everything just by being the wonderful man that he is. 

Overall, a solid, British mystery--coming in at ★★★ . I will certainly keep reading the Quantrill series as they come my way.

This fulfills the "Woman in the Title" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.


hopeinbrazil said...

I've been hooked on Vintage mysteries this summer. Thanks for introducing me to another new author.

Bev Hankins said...

Hope you enjoy her when you find her.

fredamans said...

I like mysteries where you think you know, and each time come up wrong and have to keep guessing. She sounds like the kind of author I would appreciate for sure. Great review!

Unknown said...

By the way, Felony & Mayhem Press (where I work) has reissued 4 of the titles in Sheila Radley's "Inspector Quantrill" series, including the first one, Death in the Morning.

Bev Hankins said...

Julia: I have Death in the Morning in the Felony & Mayhem edition!