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Thursday, 3 June 2021

‘The Good Wife’ by Jane A. Adams

Published by Severn House,
29 April 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-78029-676-0 (HB)

It is Spring 1929 and Doctor Clive Mason is combining duty with pleasure at Southwell Races. Mason is acting as the police surgeon on duty while enjoying a day out with his wife, Martha, along with his friend and colleague, Doctor Ephraim Phillips and and Phillips’ wife, Nora. The two women are good friends, although they are different in personality: Nora is a more light-minded person than Martha and primarily preoccupied with domestic and child-rearing matters, while Martha is childless and very active in community activities. While Nora has helped establish her husband’s medical practise by bringing him financial support from her prosperous father, Martha has worked hard to help her husband and her efficiency has helped him to set up and maintain his practise.

Throughout the day at the races, Mason has dealt with a couple of routine accidents, which have not impacted upon his enjoyment of the day, then he is summoned to examine the body of a woman that has been found in an empty horse-box. Mason expects to find the victim is a woman of easy virtue who had been using the stable for immoral purposes but when he reaches the scene, he is horrified to discover that the dead woman is his wife.

Martha’s handbag is missing, and at first the local police assume that her death was the result of a vicious robbery but soon it becomes clear that the crime is far more complex. At the same time, it seems unlikely that anybody would wish to harm Martha, she is renowned for being a good wife, supportive of her husband, popular with the community and a member of several charity committees. The local police call in Scotland Yard and Detective Chief Inspector Henry Johnstone and Sergeant Mickey Hitchens travel from London to take over the investigation.

Johnstone and Hitchens are very different characters: Johnstone is a highly intelligent, aloof and self-contained bachelor; Hitchens is sharp-witted, down-to-earth, lively and sociable and a happily married man. The pair share a mutual respect and work together as a team, however they also welcome the cooperation and local knowledge of Sergeant Emory of the local force.

At first it seems that there is no sane reason for the murder of Martha Mason but, as the detectives probe further, more and more anomalies appear. Neither Martha’s past life, nor her present situation, are as straightforward and irreproachable as they had seemed, and, to make matters even more complicated, all those around the victim have their own secrets. These secrets must be examined to determine whether they are relevant to the murder enquiry, but the detectives try to act with discretion as they have no desire to damage the reputations of people who are innocent of serious crimes. The deeper they probe, the more convinced Johnstone feels that this crime is connected to something more complex than a simple crime of passion. Then the killer strikes again and the violence escalates.

The Good Wife is the fifth book in the series featuring Henry Johnstone, but it works perfectly as a stand-alone, with sufficient backstory skilfully woven into the narrative in a way that does not slow down the story. The period detail and descriptions of the police investigation are consistent and convincing and the plot is interesting. The characterisation is excellent, with many of the people who were part of Martha’s life turning out to be a lot more fallible than their public personas implied. The detective characters are likeable and the relationship between Johnstone and Hitchens is especially engaging. The Good Wife is part of an excellent series that gets stronger all the time. It is a very enjoyable read, which I recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Jane Adams was born in Leicestershire, where she still lives. She has a degree in Sociology and has held a variety of jobs including lead vocalist in a folk rock band. She enjoys pen and ink drawing; martial arts and her ambition is to travel the length of the Silk Road by motorbike. Her first book, The Greenway, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award in 1995 and for the Author's Club Best First Novel Award. Jane writes several series.  Her first series featured Mike Croft. Several books featuring DS Ray Flowers. Seven titles featuring blind Naoimi Blake, and six titles featuring Rina Martin. In 2016 she started a series set between the two World Wars and featuring Detective Inspector Henry Johnstone and his sergeant, Micky Hitchens.  Bury Me deep is the first book in a series featuring Detective Inspector Rozlyn Priest.  Jane has also written several standalone novels. She is married with two children.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below. To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts click on the title. 


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