This marked the debut of Scottish writer Jill McGown (1947-2007) and her two detectives, DCI Lloyd (no first name ever provided and it turns out to be something of a bone of contention) and Detective Sergeant Judy Hill, his partner at work and, eventually, at home too. The setting is the usually quiet industrial town of Stanfield, shaked by the discovery of the strangled, naked body of a recently widowed woman in the boathouse she inherited (she owned the lake in front of it too). But where are her clothes?
I submit this review for Bev’s 2015 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Challenge; and Patti Abbott’s Friday’s Forgotten Books meme over at her fab Pattinase blog.
“Judy Hill slept, dreaming that everyone she ever knew was playing tennis in the rain”
The plot is comparatively simple, though the treatment is a bit involved. The woman was the widow of the richest man in town, who was several decades older than her and who was only trapped into marriage by a pretend pregnancy. Now that she is dead (she is mourned by nobody, they all knew she only married for money and just wants to collect the cash and leave town) her money goes to Donald and Helen Mitchell, both of whom are having affairs with someone else, which is particularly relevant in her case as she is now in love with Chris, who was seen with the victim minutes before being reported dead and who has now gone on the run. But did he do it? And if not, why is he in hiding? And was Donald having an affair with the victim, as his wife thinks, or somebody else? It turns out there is a fair amount of marital infidelity in town, even among the detectives investigating the case …
“They had made each other laugh, she land Lloyd, and the knowledge that they could just as easily make each other cry made the laughter it all the sweeter.”
Lloyd and Hill used to work in London but despite a mutual attraction, both were married and nothing happened. They have now, independently, both ended up working together again, only he is now divorced and her husband is hardly ever around except to have rows. They thus end up together. starting up a tension and dynamic that will mark the series. The plot is quite clever, in a very Christie-like way (I’ll say no more), and there are also some unusual touches (each chapter ends with the point of view of the local wildlife on proceedings), though there are also weaknesses in even such a brief novel (under 200 pages), most notably Chris’ disappearance, which is an obvious red herring but sticks out as such as it simply is not well-enough motivated by the plot. None the less, a confident, well-written debut and I look forward to reviewing more of these next year.
Incidentally, a small bit of trivia for you. Lloyd and Hill was an unsuccessful attempt in 2001 to adapt the books into a TV series starring Philip Glenister and Michelle Collins. It never got past a one-off pilot (a scuzzy-looking version is available illegally online) – in the TV adaptation Lloyd’s first name is given as Danny, but in the books (in the tradition of Morse and Columbo), we only know that D is his initial – and that he will punch out anybody who uses his actual first name.
The Lloyd and Hill Mysteries:
- A Perfect Match (1983)
- Redemption (US title: Murder at the Old Vicarage, 1988)
- Death of a Dancer: (US title: Gone to her Death, 1989)
- The Murders of Mrs Austin and Mrs Beale (1991)
- The Other Woman (1992)
- Murder…Now and Then (1993)
- A Shred of Evidence (1995)
- Verdict Unsafe (1997)
- Picture of Innocence (1998)
- Plots and Errors (1999)
- Scene of Crime (2001)
- Births, Deaths and Marriages: (US title: Death in the Family, 2002)
- Unlucky For Some (2004)
The author’s website, now maintained by her family, is: www.jillmcgown.co.uk/
I submit this review for Bev’s 2015 Silver Age Vintage Mystery Challenge bingo in the ‘author I’ve never read before’ category: