Monday, July 27, 2015

Shadow of a Doubt: Review

Shadow of a Doubt (1981) is one of the best detective novels I have read by June Thomson. It is set at and near Hawton Hall, an exclusive private clinic where politicians, high-rolling businessmen, and high-strung actors can go to rest and recover from various forms of stress. The clinic is run by the charismatic and ambitious Dr. Howard Jordan. An autocratic and forceful man, the women on his staff respect him as a professional...and maybe have a few other feelings for him as well.

But he has little time or patience to spend on his wife. Claire may have been there with him from the beginning and helped him to launch his career, but he seems to regard his pale, shy wife as more of burden than a helpmate now that he's well on the road to success. He treats her with near disdain in private and very little better in public. So no one at the Hall is too surprised when Claire Jordan disappears one day while the doctor and one of his assistants run professional errands. Their only surprise is that she actually got up the nerve to do it. 

The other surprise is when Detective Chief Inspector Finch (*renamed Inspector Rudd in U.S. editions) from regional headquarters is assigned to look into the matter. What should have been a matter for the local bobby is given to Finch at the direct request of one of the Hall's elite clients. Is the Home Office official afraid that some specific scandal will be exposed? Or just hoping for a discreet inquiry that will keep him out of the limelight in a general way?

Finch has barely begun his investigation when an attack on one staff member and the murder of another makes it obvious that there will be no hushing this one up. Are all of these events related? The victims are all female and all connected to the clinic in some way. Is there a motive against the women in particular or does someone have a grudge against the clinic? Dr. Jordan denies that any of his patients had disorders of the kind which would result in violent behavior--whether against women or the clinic--but Finch suspects that Jordan is keeping something back. But then he suspects that every one of his witnesses are hiding or lying about something. It will take him some time to unearth all the hidden truths and discover exactly why Claire disappeared and why someone else had to die.

June Thomson has consistently provided solid, middle-of-the-road mysteries for Inspector Finch to unravel. He and Detective Sergeant Boyce are interesting and determined characters--hardworking detectives who use the art of interrogation and observation to get their man (or woman) with none of the "flair" or "nose" of some of their fictional colleagues. This doesn't mean the the stories themselves lack flair or individuality. The cases often take Finch to special settings--such as the exclusive clinic here--and he and Boyce have to feel their way around the unusual background. 

The clues are displayed quite fairly and the alert reader should be able to gather them up along with the detectives and reach the same conclusion. I missed an early one that Thomson dropped so casually into the descriptions. It would have gone a long way to helping me with the solution. Thomson was at her plotting and clue sleight-of-hand best when she put this one together and there are some interesting circumstances that feature in the denouement. A very enjoyable ★★★★ outing.

This fulfills the "Medical Mystery" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card and provides me with my second Silver Bingo (finally!). I've now fulfilled my basic challenge commitment--but you all know I'm going to try to fill both cards.

*As noted above, Inspector Jack Finch was renamed Rudd in U.S. editions. This was done to prevent confusion with Margaret Erskine's Inspector Septimus Finch. I own and have read the British paperback edition and, thus, refer to the character as Finch.


fredamans said...

You had me with, 'one of the best detective novels I've read'. That is enough for me to want to read it too! Great review!

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to read her as I kept seeing her name in the library (I was usually getting books by Jim Thompson) - thanks bev, sounds good.

Yvette said...

It sounds good, Bev. Reminds me a bit of a book I read recently by P.D. James. I think it was called THE PATIENT - took place at this sort of hospital. I've never read any books by June Thomson, another author I'll have to investigate. Once I finish up my current Michael Innes binge, that is. You know how that goes. :)

P.S. At first I thought you were going to talk about the Hitchcock movie of the same name.