Have you ever waited for the next show in a series or the next movie in a trilogy? That’s how some book series are for me. Reading has always been a major source of entertainment for me and I seem to be drawn to books that are written in series. I like to read mysteries because I like to solve the puzzle they present. Within that genre of books, I like to read series because I enjoy watching as relationships develop, people mature, and lives grow and flourish.
It goes without saying that for me to become committed to a series, I have to like the people and the places that are part of the books. Often that means reading books that are placed in England, although I don’t have a good explanation for that other than the fact that I cut my mystery reader’s teeth on Agatha Christie.
For a long time I was more likely to reread an Agatha Christie than to try a new book by an author I didn’t know. All that changed when I signed up to read advanced copies of books through NetGalley. If you are unfamiliar, it’s a website that allows publishers to find readers who are interested in their particular genre of books. Most of these publishers have a set number of books to release before publication and you request them based on your interests.
I joined NetGalley in 2018, and since then a whole new world of authors has opened up for me. I’ve learned how to read descriptions of books so that I don’t often wind up with a book that I just really hate. I’ve also been reliable for providing timely reviews. All of this combines to put me in a position of receiving most of the books I request. There are a few publishers who are looking for librarians, booksellers, and bloggers who have a much larger following than I have. I’ve started compiling a list of those so I stop asking for books from them. I’m currently running at about an 85% rate of books received after request, so I’m thinking that’s pretty good.
One of the best results of using NetGalley to try new authors has been the discovery of several authors who I really enjoy. I’m always on the watch for new novels by these authors, and I’m always excited when I come across a new release. One of these authors is Faith Martin, who has several series she’s written over the years. I’ve read two of the series, the one featuring Jenny Starling and the one featuring the investigative pair of Coroner Dr. Ryder and WPC Loveday. These two series are very different in the protagonist and how the involvement in a murder comes about, but they both are consistently excellent in providing a good puzzle to be solved.
There is also good development of secondary relationships and character’s growth, particularly in the Ryder and Loveday series. Both series have characters with whom I enjoy spending time and the settings are usually lovely as well as quintessentially British in one way or another. I’ve written some of Ms. Martin’s books in this blog before. Here’s the latest one I’ve had the opportunity to read.
A FATAL SECRET by Faith Martin is the fourth in the Ryan and Loveday police procedural. This series features an unlikely pairing between women’s probationary constable Trudy Loveday, a young 19 year old from a working class family and Dr. Clement Ryder, a retired surgeon who now works as a coroner for the Oxford police. The series is set in the ‘60’s, and gives a fascinating look into the place of women in the police force at that time as well as a social system that still put more emphasis on a young woman marrying rather than having a career.
As a woman in the police service, Trudy encounters a great deal of resistance from her superior officer who questions the place of women in the police force. Since he can’t refuse to have her in the precinct his solution is to assign Trudy to more menial tasks such as filing and logging personal items for people being booked into jail. Dr. Ryder, on the other hand, sees Trudy as an asset and someone with a sharp mind to be nurtured and grown.
Dr. Ryder is called in to investigate when a member of the local landed gentry is unsatisfied with the conclusion brought by an inquest in the death of a child on his estate. Because there is still significant political weight afforded the gentry, his request is given the green light and Dr. Ryder is assigned the investigative duties. Because of his high regard for Trudy, he immediately requests her assistance and because he also has considerable weight within the police service, his request is granted.
As WPC Loveday and Dr. Ryder begin to explore the child’s death, they become convinced he was murdered and it was made to look like an accident. There are numerous twists and turns as they question people attached to the estate, many of whom have secrets they wish to keep. Not all of these secrets refer to the child’s death and it becomes Ryder and Loveday’s job to separate out what’s relevant.
In addition, there is an ongoing storyline of Dr. Ryder’s self diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease. He has noticed signs such as tremors and unsteady gait and is trying to hide this information for fear it will mean he is judged medically unfit for his position as coroner which requires he be able to pass a police physical. Trudy has noticed some of his problems and has her suspicions, but is reluctant to ask for fear of the answer.
As expected, Ryder and Loveday solve the murder and identify the murderer but not before experiencing some trauma themselves. Trudy is in a quandary because she is nearing the end of her probationary period, her parents are pressing her to leave the dangerous field of police work, and the solution of this murder pressed her into actions she had never fully considered when joining the force. Her choices, as well as Dr. Ryder’s fate, are left for future books.
Because the relationship between Dr. Ryder and WPC Loveday is central to this series and develops with each book, the series is probably best enjoyed being read in order. The mysteries themselves are stand alone, so that is not necessary for the enjoyment of solving the puzzle of “who done it”. My thanks to HQ Digital Publishing and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
As you are gearing up for Fall and perhaps more time to relax indoors with a cup of hot chocolate, this is a series and an author I recommend to anyone who likes to read mysteries that are long on puzzle and short on gory details. In any event, happy reading.