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Wednesday 10 June 2015

‘Star Fall’ By Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Published by Severn House,
March 1, 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8460-2 (HB)

As this new novel (and the eighth entry in the series) by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles opens, her protagonist, DI Bill Slider, of the Shepherd’s Bush CID, is jolted out of his post-Christmas lull when he is called to the scene of a homicide, the victim being a “sort of telly personality,” 58-year-old Rowland Egerton, a presenter on a show called “Antiques Galore!” and self-styled expert in the field.  The body had been found by the deceased’s partner in an antiques shop, John Lavender, his friend of over 20 years.  The immediate presumption is that it had been a burglary gone wrong, when it is discovered that two items were missing from the antiques-laden home, their value not immediately apparent.  Suspicion immediately falls on Lavender, seemingly the obvious suspect, although the ensuing investigation indicates that the victim, although quite a ladies man, “wasn’t a very popular man among people who knew him, but no-one seems to have hated him enough to kill him . . . adored by his fans and generally not much liked by his colleagues.”  So the suspect pool is soon much larger.

Because of the dead man’s popularity as a “darling of daytime TV,” pressure soon mounts for the case to be solved quickly.  Billed very accurately as a procedural, much as it must be in real life, the case is painstakingly examined and investigated, very slowly and closely.  There is only a small degree of suspense, since suspicions are only that until, with great difficulty, proven.  However, as with all series entries, the writing is lovely, and the slow pace only minimally distracting.

The usual cast of characters is present:  Slider’s wife, Joanna (a Royal London Philharmonic violinist, now on a leave of absence), recovering from a miscarriage; his colleagues on the force, most conspicuously DS Jim Atherton, his second in command and right-hand man; D.C. Connolly; and DS Fred Porson, he of the “mangled aphorism” and master of malapropisms of whom the author says, “it was his way to fling words at meaning and see what stuck.”  Descriptions in general are charming:  A cold night with “a ‘lazy wind’ - - too lazy to go round you, went straight through you instead;” “the sound of a door buzzer, harsh and threatening like a wasp with a headache;” and Lavender a man whose “bags under his eyes were so big you could have called them steamer trunks.”  Carefully plotted, the book is another winner from this author, and is recommended.
Reviewer: Gloria Feit

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles was born in Shepherd's Bush in London. She was educated at Burlington School, a girls' charity school founded in 1699, and at the University of Edinburgh and University College London, where she studied English, history and philosophy. She wrote her first novel while at university and in 1972 won the Young Writers' Award with The Waiting Game. Afterwards she had a variety of jobs in the commercial world, while writing during the evenings and weekends. The birth of the Morland Dynasty series enabled her to become a full-time writer in 1979. The series was originally intended to comprise twelve volumes, but it has proved so popular that it has now been extended to thirty-four.In 1993 she won the RNA Novel of the Year Award with Emily, the third volume of her Kirov Saga, a trilogy set in nineteenth century Russia, and she also writes the internationally acclaimed Bill Slider Mysteries.
Cynthia Harrod-Eagles still lives in London, has a husband and three children, and apart from writing her passions are music (she plays in several amateur orchestras) horses, wine, architecture and the English countryside.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

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