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INVITATION TO DIE
by Barbara Cleverly
Soho, August 2019
360 pages
$26.95
ISBN: 1641290277


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I found the first novel in this new series, FALL OF ANGELS, really well done and promising a wonderful set of ongoing adventures with Detective Inspector John Redfyre of Cambridge, England in the 1920s. The dialogue was a treasury of quips, witticisms, and repartee and author Barbara Cleverly's more than able use of the English language added to the pleasure of reading. The place and time were nicely portrayed and the plot was carefully thought out and more complex than most, giving the reader a run for his/her entertainment.

In the second episode of this mystery series, we find DI Redfyre tumbled quickly into an extremely convoluted set of circumstances from the discovery of the first murdered victim, to the discovery of a number of unsolved cases that look alarmingly similar, to the discovery that the victim may not be who he appears to be, and so on. There are at least three and I might well need to be corrected on that count that rather suddenly come together and they involve six soldiers from the long past Boer War in Africa who went through a lot together, a mysterious tramp who appears and disappears in Cambridge at will, a number of academics whose haughtiness and snobbery are beyond belief, two overlapping groups of women whose purpose is to 1) save the local bat population and 2) secure the vote for women by any means possible regardless of damage done.

I found the motivation for the crimes (after the first one in Africa) rather thin and unconvincing for the most part and the strategy of shifting timeframes back and forth in the early part of the novel both maddening and something of a red herring it actually served as far as I could see to manipulate and confuse the reader to disguise the weakness of the plot which this time was not thought out very well.

Additionally, physical details were handled poorly at one point the pathologist estimates the number of servings of sherry that are spilled onto the ground where a corpse has landed. For some reason he is able to do this marvelously even though the corpse was not discovered for four days and nights.

But worst, what was witty and charming in the first novel became brittle and artificial in the second, with the quips and witticisms generally meant to be insulting but supposed to pass as comical. And DI Redfyre and his superior, MacFarlane, showed a side of themselves the desire and need to rough up suspects who weren't confessing quickly enough used in a way that might reflect the attitudes of the 1920s but is handled badly enough, apparently also meant to be funny.

I am left disappointed in Redfyre he is not what I thought he was going to develop into and I am disappointed in Cleverly that she did not take better care of him.

Diana Borse is retired from teaching English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and savoring the chance to read as much as she always wanted to.

Reviewed by Diana Borse, August 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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