Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Grief Encounters, by Stuart Pawson (UK paperback ed., $16.95, c 2007)

Stuart Pawson is one of the great undiscovered British mystery writers. During a brief window, Jill was able to get copies of most of the books in his Charlie Priest series at a reasonable price, but no longer. It's a shame because Pawson is a witty writer, his character is charming and likable (with no visible addictions), and the plots are interesting. Now that I'm hooked, of course, I have no choice: I must have my Charlie Priest fix. Grief Encounters is the twelfth in the series.

Pawson's talent is for creating gritty tales without wallowing in horror or nastiness. His stories rise shining from the muck and can be read even by those with a slight case of faintness of the heart. But he is no Agatha Christie or John Mortimer; there is a thin edge of steel to his tales.

DI Priest and his band of goodniks keep the borders and byways of Yorkshire safe and sound (along with Reginald Hill's Dalziel and Pascoe and Peter Robinson's Alan Banks). In the present case, a former superior officer, Colin Swainby, has been forced to retire. Priest soon learns that Swainby is being blackmailed. With a leap of intuition, Priest suspects that there may be more of the same in other parts of Yorkshire, even to the extent of involving a suspicious death. As Charlie susses out and interviews the reluctant victims, he realizes that there is a mighty tangled web of lives and it's up to him and his team to untangle them.

Most of the villains are sociopathic and clever, but some have a tale or two whose pathos may wring a tiny tear from your eye. And this is Pawson's talent in a nutshell. He drives the reader's emotions, in this case from amusement to disgust to anticipation. For those of us who have followed the series, we get the bonus of learning the next installment in Charlie's woeful love life.

Beg, borrow, or buy a Pawson book. This best kept secret isn't just for anglophiles or people I've yakked into trying one.

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