Sally Spencer: Death of an Innocent
(7th in the Woodend series 2002)

First an explanation taken from ‘Sally Spencer’s’
own website (http://www.alanrustage.com/).
Sally Spencer is in fact Alan Rustage. He explains
the reason why he adopted this nom de plume
there – and it offers further insights into the
weird and wonderful world of publishing! Just
who does work there??? Anyway he also writes
as James Garcia Woods (mysteries set in the
Spanish Civil War) and as ‘Sally Spencer writing
as Alan Rustage’ (!) a series of 19thC mysteries.
Got that? No not sure I have either. But the author
of all these books is Alan Rustage, although I shall
of course use the Spencer name.

OK.

>>A man and a young woman are found blasted away by
a rifle in a remote farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors. But
where is the farmer, why did he have such swanky furniture
in his living room, and who on earth are the victims? Charlie
Woodend isn’t amused with the people who are getting
under his feet as he starts to grapple with these questions,
but his steps are abruptly halted when the Deputy Chief
Constable decides that, this time, Woodend’s high-handedness
has gone too far. Woodend may have been suspended but his
sense of justice can’t let go. And it won’t let go however much
resistance he encounters and from whom. But as Woodend is
depressed to discover, when the people who are determined
to keep you down are all-powerful, sheer will-power just isn’t enough.<<

I have read at least one of the Woodend series (and there are now
17 or 18 – the latest Sins of the Fathers was reviewed on Eurocrime
in August) before but can’t find that I wrote about it. The most unusual
thing about this series is that it is set in the early 1960’s. Spencer is not
in the least nostalgic about this – we are not in Heartbeat country
(and not geographically either these books are set in Lancashire
not Yorkshire). She uses the period in an interesting way, although
it is never allowed to intrude too much on the story. Woodend
himself verges on the cliche’d rough honest diamond cop, but
Spencer makes good use of the team – I think different characters
are highlighted in different books.
But this book works because Spencer can construct and write a
decent mystery plot. I know this sounds absurd but after some
of the books I have been reading recently it really shines out.
Not only is there a mystery – and although I had it partly figured out
one thing completely fooled me, yet was obvious in retrospect (obviously
can’t discuss that without massive spoiler but would love to know if
anyone else who has read the book was fooled too). And apart from
the mystery the story is driven along at pace and there is real drama
at the denouement.
I am not sure I would say that this a truly memorable book (I can’t
recall that much of the one I read previously) but I would definitely
recommend the series on a library basis. I will try and read some more
now.

(November 2007)

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