Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Late Phoenix: Catherine Aird

From the summary at Rue Morgue Press:
Young Dr. Latimer has no sooner opened his surgery on Lamb Lane in Berebury than he is called upon to examine a dead body. Actually a skeleton, it was discovered during the excavation of the bomb site across the street, now in the process of redevelopment, and it belonged to a young woman who was apparently trapped in a cellar during the June 1941 bombing which leveled the houses on the site. ... First published in 1970, it's the author's fifth book and the fourth to feature her durable Inspector Sloan.
I have read the first four books in the Inspector Sloan series by Catherine Aird, and I am a fan of this author. I like the police procedural aspects. In addition, each book I have read so far has a different theme or setting. The Stately Home Murder is about a death in a 300-room estate that has been open to the public for tours. It is humorous and pokes fun at the Golden Age country house mystery, but in a nice way. The second book in the series, Henrietta Who?, concerns a young woman who discovers that the woman who has raised her is not really her mother. Thus it addresses the theme of identity within the framework of a murder investigation.


This book is different because it is about the investigation of a death that occurred during World War II. The book was written in and takes place in 1970, but Inspector Sloan is forced to learn more about history, the war, and events in the village during the war. Clearly Sloan must have been fairly young during the blackouts because he has to rely on the library to help him with some of his investigation of events that took place 30 years earlier. It is like investigating a cold case, but not, since no one even knew about the death until the body was discovered.

Reading this book was a bonus for me because I love books about World War II. Although the book was not set in that time, the investigation concerns the events of the war and addresses effects that the war had on communities for years afterwards.

Some reviews complain about the lack of characterization in the Sloan novels. Aird is given more credit for her plotting than her character development. Yet I did not find that to be true. No one character -- other than Sloan -- is prominent. Yet some of the secondary characters are very interesting. The young Dr. Latimer is new to the community and is enjoying his job and striving to fit in. His office manager is adjusting to working under a new doctor and misses the previous doctor, who she had worked with for decades. I also liked the picture of relationships within the small community.

Of course, when I was looking for book covers with skulls, and happened upon the next book in this series with this gorgeous cover, I had to get a copy.

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Publisher:   Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1971 (orig. pub. 1970)
Length:      179 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Inspector Sloan #4
Setting:      UK
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:      I purchased this book.


18 comments:

  1. Not come across this series so I shall look into it as it sounds quite good. That cover is amazing.

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    1. I think you would like it, Cath. I wish I knew who the artist was on that cover.

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  2. This author has long been on my wishlist. Thanks for the reviewTracy. I too like books where the past becomes extremely significant.

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    1. I hope you try this author someday, Neer. So far all the books I have read by her have been interesting. This one is a very good example of using history in the story.

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  3. So glad you enjoyed this one, Tracy. You're right of course that Aird isn't as well known for rich characters as for plotting. Still, I don't find her characters 'wooden' or 'flat.' And I do like the 'cold case' element of this story.

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    1. You say it so well, Margot. Her characters are interesting to me. Probably more so in HENRIETTA WHO? and this one than THE STATELY HOME MURDER.

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  4. I can see why you were drawn to the cover. I don't think I've read anything by this author but this one sounds right up my street, thanks.

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    1. Katrina, it is always a plus when I can find a good book with a lovely cover too. I do think you would like this series.

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  5. I loved Henrietta Who? and will read whatever books of Aird's carried by my library.

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    1. Henrietta Who? is my favorite so far, Kathy, but this one came close. I look forward to finding the next one in the list.

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  6. I'll pass on this one - no time I'm afraid. Glad you enjoyed it though.

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    1. Not really your type of crime fiction, Col. I am sure I will be reviewing some soon that will be more to your taste, even if you don't have time for them. I am only reading from my TBR pile for 3 months and trying hard not to buy new fiction. We shall see.

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  7. Tracy, thanks for the review. I heard and read about Catherine Aird only a couple of years ago, thanks to blog reviews, and since then I have been meaning to read some of her novels. Hopefully, this year, as I plan to read more books by women authors.

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    1. I do hope you give Catherine Aird a try, Prashant. I only recently noticed that she has written some short stories also. She published the first book in the Inspector Sloan series in 1966 and the last novel was published in 2013. Amazing.

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  8. Aird is a favorite of mine, if that's possible as I read just two of her books, this not among them. I have others on the shelf and must plan on reading another this year.

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    1. Richard, I only discovered Catherine Aird a few years ago, which means I have plenty more of them to read.

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  9. I've been dipping into a few Catherine Airds myself, and enjoying them. This book is ideal for you with the WW2 connection AND that wonderful skull cover!

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    1. It was ideal, and I was so glad I read it, Moira. Looking forward to reading more when I can fit them in.

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