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… 😉

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 239…

Episode 239

A special edition this week – every book mentioned is either written, translated or published by one of the many talented friends I’ve made in this strange but rather wonderful online world! As regulars know, I’m in the middle of the biggest reading/reviewing slump in the history of the universe, so I hope that Margot, Matt and Marina Sofia will understand that it may be a while before I review these since I want to wait till my usual bookish enthusiasm is back in proper working order. I’m looking forward to each of them, though – don’t they sound great?

Not so good for the TBR however – up 3 to 217! But who’s counting…?

Crime in Translation 1

Living Candles by Teodora Matei

Marina Sofia of Finding Time to Write has started a new translating and publishing venture with a few like-minded friends. Corylus Books aims to present “some of the great European crime fiction that wouldn’t normally make its way into English”, particularly “crime fiction with a social dimension”. This is one of the first off the press…

The Blurb says: The discovery of a woman close to death in a city basement sends Bucharest police officers Anton Iordan and Sorin Matache on a complex chase through the city as they seek to identify the victim. As they try to track down the would-be murderer, they find a macabre trail of missing women and they realise that this isn’t the first time the killer has struck. Iordan and Matache hit one dead end after another, until they decide they’ll have to take a chance that could prove deadly.

If you enjoy travelling the world virtually through your crime fiction, then Living Candles is the perfect book to convey the atmosphere of the Romanian urban environment. Or at least the murkier side of it: the blocks of flats where the neighbours all know each other’s business, the pensioners gossiping on the bench outside the entrances, the machismo impregnating the atmosphere so thickly, you could cut it with a knife.” Marina Sofia

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Historical Fiction

Atlantic View by Matthew Geyer

I first met Matt virtually several years ago now when we both glowingly reviewed Colm Tóibín’s The Testament of Mary on Amazon US. An exchange of comments on each other’s reviews led me to discover that Matt had written his own novel, Strays, which I subsequently read and greatly enjoyed. Matt has recently started his own blog where he will be reviewing literary fiction as well as telling us about his own writing journey. This is his second novel, and I’m thrilled that he’s included a quote from my review of Strays on the back cover! 

The Blurb says: Set against the backdrop of the Obama presidential election, Atlantic View is the story of how Patrick Munchen loses his job, his wife and his way, only to discover an improbable new path with the support of his daughter, Megan. As the hope for change turns sour in the wake of another American election, the end of one way of life becomes the beginning of another.

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Crime

A Matter of Motive by Margot Kinberg

Margot used to blog about crime fiction and has introduced me to a whole world of authors I didn’t know about over the years we’ve been blog buddies. Her blog is much missed, but if stopping blogging has given her more time for writing then I forgive her! Previously she has written four books starring her academic amateur detective, Joel Williams, the most recent being Downfall. This new one, though, is a departure from that series – a standalone.

The Blurb says: A man is dead in his car, slumped over the steering wheel. But who killed him? Ron Clemons is the last person you’d think would be murdered. His wife and son love him. His employees respect him. His business is doing well. His clients seek him out. But someone wanted him dead.The Clemons case is a golden opportunity for newly minted police detective Patricia Stanley to prove herself. It’s her first murder investigation and she wants to do well. But it’s not going to be easy. For one thing, she has plenty to learn about handling a murder. And nearly everyone involved in this one is hiding something. Patricia faces her own challenges, too, as the investigation brings back the murder of an old love.

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Crime in Translation 2

Sword by Bogdan Teodorescu

A second selection from Corylus Books, and this one is translated by our very own Marina Sofia herself! The paper publication has been held up due to the ongoing situation with the pesky plague, but the Kindle version is available for pre-order and will be out on 8th May. Another excellent reason for having a Kindle…

The Blurb says: As a shadowy killer stalks the streets of Bucharest, seeking out victims from among the Roma minority, the police are at a loss to track down the murderer, who always dispatches in the same manner – hence the Sword nickname the media are quick to give to the killer. As panic starts to take hold and inter-racial tensions begin to reach boiling point, those in government and those who want to be try to manipulate the situation for their own ends.

A bestseller in Romania and France, Sword is a tumultuous political thriller by journalist and political analyst Bogdan Teodorescu – echoing much of the fears and tensions of today’s political landscape.

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NB All blurbs and covers taken from Goodreads or Amazon UK.

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So…what do you think? Are you tempted?