Friday, February 19, 2016

Poacher's Bag: Review

Poacher's Bag (1980) is the twelfth novel in Douglas Clark's Masters and Green police procedural series. The series is quite solid in both procedure and characterization--and it has the added bonus of educating the reader on all sorts of medical topics. At the time this novel was written, Clark had worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 18 years and was well-up on diseases, drugs, and their effects and the information he used to spice up his mystery novels was not as well-known to the general public. You didn't have various drugs appearing in every other commercial on the television. And he managed to drop the information in--primarily through dialogue--without it feeling like a lecture.

Poacher's Bag is no different. Superintendent George Masters and Inspector Bill Green take off for a rare weekend getaway. They have been invited to spend their holiday at the home of Master's force-of-nature mother-in-law, Bella Bartholomew. They think it's just a spur-of-the-moment invite, but it turns out that Bella intended them to make up her wedding party. She had planned on marrying her neighbor, ex-Cambridge don, Haydn Prior. 

They've barely begun to congratulate her when she tells them the wedding's off. No, they haven't had a falling out. Hadyn is dead and, though he was a man well along in years and his death has been attributed to a heart attack, both she and the police insist he was murdered. The local force believe they have their man--a poacher who shot Hadyn (he says because he was startled) and then chased the poor man causing a heart attack from over-exertion. The poacher was found over the body with his hand inside Hadyn's coat. He says to check for a heartbeat. The police say caught in the act of attempted robbery.

Bella knows the poacher and insists that he did not deliberately shoot her fiance and that he would never have tried to rob him and she wants Masters and Green to discover the real cause of Hadyn's death and the real murderer. This puts the two men in a bit of a spot. Being Yard men, they can't just start investigating on someone else's patch without cause--and a mother-in-law's "feelings" and intuition don't exactly constitute "cause." But the more she tells them about Hadyn's odd behavior in the days leading up to the shooting, the more interested Masters gets. And when a surprise claimant shows up to contest Hadyn Prior's will, Masters really begins to smell a rat. But how can he find out what he needs to know and manage to help the local constabulary to the solution without stepping all over their toes?

Clark does his usual fine job with the mystery set up and getting all the players in place. This one is a bit less of a puzzler--it doesn't take long to know who the villain of the piece is. The real question is how was it done and how Masters will diplomatically bring the dirty work to the attention of the local police. It is great fun watching his verbal fancy footwork. His mother-in-law is a finely drawn character and it's worth the ride just to see her interactions with Bill Green. A highly enjoyable entry in a consistently entertaining series. ★★★★

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Fulfills the "Green Object" on the Vintage Silver Scavenger Hunt card. 
 

4 comments:

Gram said...

I love this series. I wish someone would bring it back!!!

Bev Hankins said...

Gram, it is a good one. I keep picking up titles as I can. I have a few more waiting on the TBR pile--but I still need several.

fredamans said...

I'm trying to make the connection between his pharmaceutical background and a story about poachers. Sounds like a good read though.

Bev Hankins said...

Freda....there's a poison involved (it relates to Prior acting weird).