Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Review of Last Rights by Barbara Nadel (Headline, 2005)
Last Rights is a kind of a hard-edged cozy: undertaker, Francis Hancock, turns amateur detective, investigating a murder when the police do not at first seem interested, continuing when he feels that they have arrested the wrong person. The edge is provided by the blitz, working class conditions, prostitution and the black market, and some unsavoury characters. The story unfolds at a reasonable clip and Nadel’s style is quite engaging. There is some nice contextualisation with respect to the blitz and the Jewish community in London, the sense of place is quite strong, and the characterisation and familial relations are well realised. Where the book suffers is with respect to the plot. The premise is interesting but the execution is weak and contrived at times and the killer is somewhat obvious from a long way out. There were a number of elements of the story that I just simply did not believe, not least the actions of the police, which made little sense. Overall, the makings of a good series, but this opening story was undermined by an improbable plot.