One of the many pleasures of librarianship is coming across Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) of books by your favorite authors. I recently received a pre-publication copy of Barbara Cleverly’s latest Joe Sandilands mystery, Not My Blood. When I had last read in this series, Scotland Yard officer Joe Sandilands was still on temporary assignment to India, serving the British Foreign Service at the height of the Raj. I had drifted away from the series over the years though, and had not realized that Cleverly had brought Joe back to England several stories ago, and that the characters had gone through some significant changes.
In the best series fiction, you get to see familiar characters who grow and develop new facets over the course of the series. Cleverly has achieved this goal as her mysteries and her characters have gained depth and perhaps an edge of darkness. In this latest entry, Joe is called upon to investigate the death of a teacher at an exclusive boarding school. The teacher was a rough and rather brutal man, and Joe is drawn into the investigation when one of the students at the school, the son of friends of Joe who are living in India, is accused of complicity in the crime. As Joe investigates, it becomes clear that there is more going on here than a simple murder, and his digging unravels an ongoing conspiracy that implicates the school and other seemingly benevolent institutions.
There are several appeals here. Cleverly tells an excellent mystery that keeps you on the edge and flipping pages. In Joe Sandilands, she has also created a fascinating main character. He is thoughtful, introspective, and unfailingly honest, but also fallible at times. Cleverly also has a firm command of her other characters, and they add a richness to the story. She has also done an excellent job with developing the setting. So whether you read for character, plot, or setting you can probably find something to enjoy in the Joe Sandilands mysteries.
Check the WRL catalog for Not My Blood