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Smokescreen - Betty Rowlands

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1 Review

Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Betty Rowlands / Hardcover / 220 Pages / Book is published 2008-06-03 by Severn House Publishers Ltd

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      19.12.2010 11:56
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      Excellent Detective story

      ==Background:==

      I purchased this book recently with an Amazon voucher I received. As a few weeks ago I had my first experience Betty Rowlands writing in her novel 'Dirty Work'. So I was keen to read another one within the same series of books to see how it compared.


      ==About the author:==

      Betty Rowlands is a British author who has written 23 novels, she specialises in mystery and crime fiction. Indeed she not only appears on panels at writer's conferences but is also a member of the Crime Writers Association. The novel I am about to review is one of the series of ten so far in the Sukey Reynolds series and was written in 2008.


      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      DC Sukey Reynolds and her friend and work colleague DC Vicky Armstrong go to a meeting to see best selling novelist Jennifer Cotterell, as Vicky is a big fan of her work. Her talk is interrupted when a mysterious women sitting next to Sukey starts hurling abuse and accusations that the author has murdered her fiancé. Having said her peace the hysterical lady disappears into the night.


      Only a few days later this wealthy and successful author is discovered dead in suspicious circumstances in her bath. The two junior Detectives are brought into the investigation team under DS Rathbone. They very quickly have to admit the unusual scene they witnessed days before. He is annoyed that neither of them found out any details of the women seeing her as a crazy deluded fan and now she is the prime suspect and they know nothing about her.


      After interviewing the unhelpful but long serving and loyal staff who looked after this author, they get the distinct impression they are all not sharing the full picture with them. Their enquiries are interrupted by another Jennifer Cotterell, who has been receiving nuisance calls from a woman claiming that her fiancé as been killed by her. They realise it must be the same women and the author has recently killed of one of her popular characters could she mean this? Luckily she did not withhold her number and the Police trace the calls to a Wendy Downie, now all they need to do is find her.


      ==My thoughts on the novel:==


      I must admit I really enjoyed this well thought out piece of crime fiction. And while it's true to say I liked the first book I looked at by this author, for me this was far superior and much more absorbing read. Although it did in my opinion have a few faults, which I shall also cover below.


      The big change for me was the change in Sukey's role from the previous book in the series. In that she was a member of the Scene of Crime Team, but now she is directly involved in the resulting investigation. I struggled when she was in that team because she not only did her job there but unofficially she investigated too and I found it hard to believe she had the time to do this as well. With her new role the author re-addresses this problem and it made more sense and was credible.


      Not only that but this likable Detective has moved to the Bristol area. This means her relationship with DI Castle who she worked with in Gloucester is not now a factor in her investigation. As I found it a little frustrating in the last book when these two would spend their free time together discussing the latest case they were working on and again I found this hard to believe. In this book she is single again and enjoying her new career and freedom from a relationship.


      When I saw this book, all I really knew was I wanted to read another from this author's pen. And despite the issues above I still did like many features about the book. I selected this one because it was later in the series so I would be able to see how and what had changed in Sukey's life and as you can see it was quite a lot and for me the changes were all for the good.


      I thought the title of this book was a very good one and for me it conjured up a variety of exciting possibilities. In retrospect it was definitely the correct one and one that reflected the story perfectly. So I read the summary on the inside cover of the book. This by contrast was disappointing; it was two short paragraphs that gave very little about what was to happen in the story. I would have liked more in-depth detail as I think on this basis alone many people would have not purchased the book.


      As I started the book I noticed it had a prologue. A well-written and interesting prologue in my opinion really sets the scene for a fabulous read. Well this was probably the worst I have ever read. It was ridiculously short only a quarter of a page and so obscure as to be very unhelpful in the context of the story. Even after reading the book and re-reading it its still makes little sense. I do not think it was worth bothering with to be honest.


      Things improved dramatically from here when the story began in earnest. I found I was immediately drawn in with the Detective seeing a famous author at one of her talks. Maybe it is because of my love of books and my respect of the guys who write them that really captured my imagination. Especially as Sukey did not want to be there and only went there to accompany her friend.

      What transpired while they were there was a highlight in humour within the novel. With the women accusing the author of murdering her other half. It was cleverly written, purposely not giving much away about this woman so her outburst was such a surprise. Through her writing I could perfectly picture this embarrassing scene vividly. It was however not a story with much wit and subtle humour which is fine by me as I read this book because I wanted a good crime thriller and that is exactly what I got.


      When the investigation started I found it unusual but very satisfying. There were many suspects that the Police needed to eliminate and I really enjoyed the background and the level of detail the author employed within the story. With the author employing a lot of mystery about this mysterious women but also creating it around the members of her staff as well.


      The story developed cleverly and as soon as you started to feel confident that you knew what was going to happen, something different and unexpected happened. There were several unusual and unexpected twists to enjoy, as the author was able to keep the suspense going right till the very end.


      As a result it was a surprising conclusion to the story. Maybe a little shorter than I would have liked but none the less brilliantly sculptured with a good final twist in its tail. For me there was more than enough in the story to be bewitched by it and I really enjoyed the unusual and unexpected directions the author took us, which I could in the main not foresee.


      Although admittedly I was somewhat surprised the murder investigation team was run by a Detective Sergeant and supported by several Detective Constables. I would have thought it should have been at least a Detective Inspector who would be running it. As instead all you had was a DI who did not leave the office who the team simply met and had meetings with about the case. Maybe that is the role of the DI, but when I think to other stories they have always been more hands on and it seemed odd to me.


      The book had a good pace and feel about it and although those involved in the case would have liked it concluded much quicker, I felt it was always moving well in the right direction. There was plenty of action to enjoy and always questions as to who killed the author and why. As in most crime thrillers the questions where a lot easier to find than the answers.


      DC Sukey Reynolds is the lead character in this series of stories. As such the story made a lot of sense with her being in this new role rather than the SOCT team, as she was under the guidance of her senior officer able to interview and talk informally to suspects. She is a fascinating character, full of ideas, sometimes brilliant sometimes not. I find her very easy to like and respect, as she is honest, hard working and very down to earth.

      Although and I always think this is a positive, if a story is not just written from one person's view point, as you get differing opinions and insights. This story also followed other members of DS Rathbone's team, so you could appreciate how they saw and felt about the investigation. I enjoyed this as all these characters had good personalities with depth and thought put into them.


      The same for me could not be said for the dead ladies Housekeeper and Cook. I spent the whole book getting these two characters confused, I don't know if I had a mental block but I struggled to find much difference in their personalities and characters. Which was a real shame as they were a constant feature in the ongoing story.


      I really enjoyed most aspects of this thriller. There was so much mystery the book I felt oozed it. It never left you either, because as soon as you thought you knew something, something else would happen that would change your perspective on the investigation and cast more doubt.


      The books length was fine but I would have liked a little longer conclusion to the story, just to maximise the tension and suspense. It also had an epilogue, which despite being a better size three pages did not really add anything again to the story like the prologue but not so obscure. Although admittedly it did say a little more about the reasons behind the case.


      ==Conclusion:==


      This was a well thought out and written suspense thriller. It was underpinned by an interesting story, with many good characters to enjoy. For me the biggest plus was not only Sukey but also and importantly her being a DC and able to participate in the investigations. This book definitely gets the thumbs up from me with my only complaints being minor ones.

      ==Other Information:==


      Pages: 220
      Price: £10.49 (Hardback)
      Publisher: Severn House
      ISBN-10: 0727866699
      ISBN-13: 978- 0727866691
      About the author: www.bettyrowlands.com
      Year of Publication: 2008


      This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.


      ©CPTDANIELS December 2010.

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