Wednesday, March 6, 2019
Murder in Just Cause by Anne Cleeland: Reading Room Review
Murder in Just Cause by Anne Cleeland is the ninth book in the Doyle and Acton Mysteries, and I devoured it like I always do a book in this favorite series. The Irish fey lass married to the sophisticated powerful Lord provides no end of interesting and humorous scenarios, but the stories are also about serious crime and too often corruption in the esteemed policing institution of Scotland Yard. Acton's tendency to be swift with his own justice and ruthless is tempered by Doyle's Roman Catholic sense of right and trying to save him from going to hell. DCI Acton's a man of many secrets, but his wife is one wily woman and manages to ferret them out with unerring accuracy. Of course, it helps that they both enjoy a good roll in the hay, quite literally, too.
What gives me so much enjoyment from these stories is that they are police procedurals with the procedure thoroughly tweaked by Acton. With his own sense of justice and Kathleen trying to tame it, the cat and mouse game is a hallmark of the series, the vehicle for the unraveling of clues. One of those twists of justice which Acton approves of is a matter of law on the English books called "murder in just cause," in which a murder can be committed with, well, just cause. Doyle, of course, thinks that there is no just cause for any murder. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, and she believes in letting the chips fall where they may for the guilty. All the while, of course, her husband is gathering those chips to avert scandal.
Back at work at Scotland Yard after maternity leave, Detective Sergeant Kathleen Doyle is disappointed to learn that she will be assisting DS Isabel Munoz, being her second, instead of having a separate caseload. Adding insult to injury, their first case is the suspected suicide by drug overdose of a "kook" at the less than desirable location of a seedy housing project. It turns out to be a "kook" with whom Munoz is familiar. "Kooks" are those people who wander in off the street or call the police station with what they deem important information on either and old case or one they claim to be reporting. Usually, the information from these people turns out to be useless, but all the officers must take "kook" duty at some point, interviewing the would-be heralders of coveted news. That there are already two police officers on deck at the scene in the projects makes Doyle wonder why detectives, such as Munoz and herself, were called in. Of course, the suicide is determined to be a homicide, and Doyle again wonders at its sloppy set-up to look like a suicide. She soon learns that it was instead a trap, one intended to knock off her fellow detective and often nemesis Munoz. And, what’s even harder to believe is that she, Doyle, was sent as Munoz’s assistant to shield against the success of that attempt. Something is definitely rotten in Denmark, and it might seem like Greek at first to the fair Kathleen Doyle, but she already suspects that her puppet master husband, Chief Inspector Acton, is pulling strings behind the scenes, even though he wasn't the one who sent her there. As Doyle is kept on assignment shadowing Munoz, strange events keep piling up, and Doyle even enlists a certain knight to help her try to decipher Acton's continuing non-involvement/involvement in what seems to be more corruption in the Scotland Yard police force.
Although Acton is a cool customer, Doyle intuitively knows that something is troubling him, as his over-protectiveness with their baby Edward seems extreme. And, even though extreme protection is something that is normal for Acton, Doyle doesn't want the presence of their baby to cause her husband to go off the deep end. So, she must work out what is troubling Michael and if it's related to the "kook" death and its subsequent events. She would also like to untangle what's going on at Scotland Yard so that she can really get back to work and quit being under Munoz's thumb. Munoz does shows a little softening in this story, as she realizes that it's love she wants in a relationship and struggles to understand how that might play out. Doyle must determine why Munoz is in danger and from whom if Izzy Munoz is to continue to have a love life or any life.
Murder in Just Cause left me wanting more, because one of my greatest reading pleasures is getting back in touch with the characters in this series, and I just can never get enough. Doyle and Acton drive the plot, but they have an outstanding supporting cast to help them. Fans of this series will be delighted to see Isabel Munoz break her stern, serious posture a bit, actually having conversations with Kathleen that border on snark-free inner feelings. Reynolds, the ever-loyal butler to Doyle and Acton, seamlessly delivers helpful information to Doyle, while never being condescending towards her. Detective Inspector Thomas Williams, who serves as both Kathleen Doyle’s best friend and Acton’s unflinching henchman, lends a hand to Kathleen when it’s not compromising his duties to his boss, and Williams, once set on life with Kathleen himself, always has her back. Then, there are the ghostly characters at Acton’s ancestral estate of Trestles and Acton’s mother, the Dowager, who can’t be trusted in her loyalties. She is the bad penny that keeps turning up, but through whom we learn interesting Acton background from time to time. With these regular characters and new ones showing up in each book, Anne Cleeland keeps the story moving through its thrilling twists and turns. Perfection each and every time.