To her credit, though, the author carefully tracks every little strand of the plot and ties the threads up tidily in the end. After finishing, I skimmed through the novel again, noticing on a second time around how well the clues had been laid.
Keeping true to form for a traditional British mystery, the village of Whimbrell Heath in Surrey is populated by eccentric characters – whose personalities, it must be said, outshine the series detectives. Who are: Major Jack Haldean, a famous crime writer, and his friend Bill Rackham, Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard. They stumble upon odd happenings in London while attending an exhibition of church art, an event one would expect to be rather calm and dull. Not so much.
Employees of Lythewell and Askern, a firm specializing in ecclesiastical artwork and furnishings, have traveled up from Whimbrell Heath to participate. Bill’s an old wartime buddy of Colin Askern, son of one of the owners, while Jack finds himself more intrigued by attractive Betty Wingate, Colin’s friend and Lythewell’s niece.
When a woman selling flags for charity passes out in shock on the street, crying out “Art!”, they help her and write it off as a peculiar event. Then things turn even stranger. The next day, when Betty approaches Bill and Jack, claiming that an Italian lady was murdered in her cottage back home, they’re compelled to investigate. Betty’s upset, since Colin and other villagers dismiss her as hysterical: the body she saw has vanished.
Jack and Bill make a good team, and their easygoing banter livens things up, though more backstory – this is the 8th in the series – would have helped me know them better. But with revelations of blackmail, jealousy, overlarge egos, and rumors of hidden treasure, there was more than enough to hold my attention as one stunning revelation after another came to light.
After the Exhibition was published by Severn House in 2014 ($28.95 hb, $13.99 ebook, 240pp). Thanks to the publisher for the NetGalley download; I'm slowly working my way through my NetGalley queue!