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Books : reviews

Janet Neel.
A Timely Death.
Penguin. 1996

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 30 July 1997

Francesca is standing in for her sick mother for a couple of nights at a Women's Refuge, when Dr. Annabelle Brewster comes in with a black eye, courtesy of her boyfriend Anthony Price. Then William Price, his father, is found murdered, and Francesca's husband, newly promoted Detective Chief Superintendent John McLeish, is heading the case.

Pleasantly readable, with old friends reappearing. But unfortunately there are too many coincidences, not enough clues (everybody wanted to do it, and everybody could have done it, right up to the end), and not enough Francesca/McLeish interaction.

Janet Neel.
To Die For.
Penguin. 1998

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 29 November 1999

A partner in a restaurant business is murdered -- and since it is a restaurant Francesca has some, faint, connections with, she naturally gets involved.

Francesca is definitely more of a catalyst than a detective -- although she does uncover one important clue. But she's more concerned with supporting the survivors than discovering the culprit -- that's left to McLeish. Lots of coincidences again -- but this time they feel more like "it's a small world" than "this is necessary to move the plot on". And the realistic kitchen finance details, a little more Francesca/McLeish interaction, and more of Francesca's musical family, give the story some depth beyond the detection.

Janet Neel.
O Gentle Death.
St Martin's. 2000

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 5 November 2011

Francesca McLeish is godmother to the musically talented Jamie, so she is aware that one of his schoolfriends, Catriona, is depressed and acting badly. So when Catriona is found with her wrists slit, lying in a bath, the immediate thought is suicide. But Detective Chief Superintendent John McLeish soon establishes it is murder.

I had waited a while hoping this would come out in paperback, but finally gave up and got the hardback second hand. It is rather disappointing as a detective novel, with a somewhat scrappy feel. We get lots of good background of the artistic lifestyle of Francesca's family and friends, but the murder investigation is unsatisfactory. There's lots of police procedural, but in the end the murderer is discovered by confession, with McLeish only at that point saying he suspected him. And although there's a lot of Francesca and John in the story, they are rather separate tales, and the joint scenes are mostly John (unnecessarily) worried about his wife's pregnancy. So, a somewhat disappointing conclusion to the series (I assume it's the conclusion, since there haven't been any more titles in the meantime).