After reading J.A. Jance’s Joanna Brady mysteries, FAILURE TO APPEAR introduced me to Seattle Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont. His eighteen-year-old daughter, Kelly, has been missing from her mother’s and stepdad’s home in California for four months, failing to graduate high school. Beaumont’s private investigator turned up zip, while stepdad Dave was able to find the troubled teen in the company of an Oregon Shakespeare company. However, Dave asks Beaumont to be the one to talk to her. Taking personal time from work, Beaumont is completely stunned to find his daughter very much pregnant, about to marry, working as a maid and babysitter, and living in a commune-like farmhouse for actors. Before the wedding can occur, however, people are murdered and Kelly falls down the basement steps, causing the baby to be born by Cesarean. Although Beaumont uncovers incest, child porn, and revenge in his attempt to find the killer, local Detective Fraymore does not welcome his help or out-of-jurisdiction intrusion for reasons that are not apparent until the end. Both daughter and granddaughter are fine; new son-in-law is acceptable; and ex-wife’s attitude becomes more understandable.
FAILURE TO APPEAR was okay. I did not find Beaumont “desperate,” as the blurb states. In fact, most of the blurb’s adjectives were not indicative of Jance’s prose at all.
On the other hand, WHERE SHADOWS DANCE by C.S. Harris kept me somewhat captivated. This Sebastian St. Cyr mystery is set in 1812 London and filled with political intrigue and interesting characters. St. Cyr is a well-known viscount who solves murder mysteries with the help of his young tiger, Tom, and his friend, Dr. Paul Gibson, a surgeon and anatomist. St. Cyr may be an aristocrat, but he is no snob. In this latest of six serial novels, St. Cyr’s life and that of his fiancee – Hero by name, a most independent woman and daughter of Sebastian’s enemy, Lord Jarvis – are in danger as they delve into one murder after another involving spies, assassins, and ambassadors from several countries. Within a short amount of time, July 24th to July 30th, much takes place: murder, kidnapping, body snatching, spying, sleuthing, strained relationships, diplomatic power struggles, and a quick marriage.
C.S. Harris does not dilly-dally with lots of unnecessary description, as is usually par for English historical fiction. And, she seems to have mastered the art of dialogue, which greatly impresses me. Therefore, I have added the previous five St. Cyr mysteries to my must-read list. If nothing else, I need to find out what explanation Harris gives for parents naming their daughter Hero.