A Matter of Motive by Margot Kinberg

Look out for red herrings…

😀 😀 😀 😀 🙂

When businessman Ron Clemons suffers what seems to be a heart attack while driving to a meeting, rookie detective Patricia Stanley is sent to the scene with her partner Luke Enders. What seems to be a routine accident takes a more sinister turn when Ron loses his battle for life, and the doctors wonder why a fit, healthy man with no history of heart problems should have been so suddenly and severely struck down. Now that it looks like it may be a murder, Patricia is pleased when her boss, Sergeant Ian Grant, allows her and the equally inexperienced Luke to stay on the case, under Grant’s close supervision.

Ron Clemons seems an unlikely victim. A loved husband and father, he also seems to be admired and liked by the employees of his successful elite publicity firm. But when Patricia and Luke begin to dig down, they find that several people may have wanted rid of him. There’s been a long-running divide in the boardroom over the direction the company should take, and Ron seems to have been holding back some of the more ambitious board members. It’s also possible that there’s been some kind of fiddling in the accounts which he may have found about. But Patricia and Luke have to consider more personal issues too. Ron’s marriage may look contented enough, but who really knows what goes on behind closed doors, and when money comes into the question, the family members who will inherit must come under suspicion. There are plenty of suspects, but Patricia knows that they won’t solve the case until they can find the right motive…

I’ve been friends with Margot through our blogs for several years now, but as always I’ve tried hard not to let that affect my opinion or my review. I’m delighted to say I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

In contemporary crime I always prefer police procedurals to amateur detectives, who are great fun in vintage crime but always seem a bit contrived in modern settings. So while I enjoyed Kinberg’s last outing with her regular detective, academic Joel Williams, the set-up of this one is much more my kind of thing. It has all the assets of the older crime novel – a good-sized pool of suspects, lots of motives, clues sprinkled throughout for the attentive reader – with a nicely modern feel given to it by the appealing central character of Patricia. She’s a well-rounded character who shares her life happily with her partner Becky, but she’s still scarred by an earlier tragedy when her previous partner was murdered. This gives her character depth as we see how she’s been affected by this both personally and professionally, and the addition of her home life makes her very likeable.

It seems to me Kinberg’s writing has a different feel in this one, tighter and with a more distinctive style, and with an intriguing approach to cutting down on the repetitive dialogue which can often bog down police procedurals, especially during the interviewing of suspects, while avoiding the more abrupt approach some authors take of simply omitting all pleasantries, which never feels natural. I liked this a lot – I found I wasn’t having to apply my usual technique of skipping over the first few sentences of every conversation, but could still feel that the civilities were being observed.

Margot Kinberg

Although it’s told in the third person, past tense (hurrah!), Kinberg also allows us inside the minds of a couple of the characters – Patricia herself, and Rachel, the wife of the victim. Rachel’s thoughts are kept nicely ambiguous though, so that we feel we get to know her and sympathise with her loss, while at the same time she has to remain a suspect.

Gradually the suspect list grows shorter as Patricia and Luke find more evidence and can begin to eliminate people, but I wasn’t at all sure whodunit until the final reveal, and, in line with the title, while plenty of people had motives, the real one was cleverly handled. I found it pleasingly difficult to decide on what were clues and what were red herrings, and on looking back I think it could reasonably be called fair play.

Great stuff! All the charm of a proper classic mystery in an authentically modern setting. This is billed as a standalone, but I’d be delighted to see Patricia and Luke return some time, if by any chance the author is listening… 😉

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33 thoughts on “A Matter of Motive by Margot Kinberg

  1. I see what you mean about amateur detectives being a better fit for Vintage Crime Fiction than contemporary, so I much prefer Police Proceedurals too when reading modern Crime Fiction. I’m sure I would enjoy this, do you or Margot know if it would ever become available as an audiobook, or even an ebook? I have a contraption which can read books to me from the kindle if need be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I don’t know why it is that I can believe the police working with amateurs in vintage crime but not in contemporary crime. I still like amateurs in thrillers – ordinary person caught up in extraordinary circumstances kind of thing. I’ll ask Margot about the audiobook and get back to you, but it is available in a Kindle version via Amazon. That’s great that you have a device to read them to you – I thought you were maybe restricted to audiobooks and although there are more and more of them now, and better quality, there are still a lot of books that don’t seem to be available in that format.

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  2. Yes, the author is listening, FictionFan… 😊 Thank you so much for the kind words (your post made my month!), and I”m very glad you enjoyed the story. Oh, and Patricia will be back…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, good – I hoped she might be! She’s an excellent character with a lot of potential. Glad you were pleased with the review, Margot – I thoroughly enjoyed the book as you can tell! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • I do love the more traditional style mystery with clues and red herrings and it’s rare to find it in a modern setting! Of course, the author is the biggest Christie fan I know, so she’s learned form the best… 😀

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  3. This does sound good. I hadn’t thought about amateur detectives and the golden age before, I haven’t read a lot of crime but that’s an interesting point to look out for!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know why I feel amateurs work in vintage crime but not in contemporary – maybe just that our police forces seem so professional these days? But I always find amateurs a bit incongruous now, even when they’re well done.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, that’s what I always think when I read one – if some archaeologist or priest turned up and started asking me questions about my murdered friend, I’d tell them to get lost! The one exception is journalists, because we do expect them to ask questions and investigate things…

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the cover too! It doesn’t have the usual police procedural ‘look’ and I like that. But now I’ve made the mistake of downloading a sample and reading a bit…. oops 😖 I think you and Margot have got me hooked now! 😆

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