September 17, 2004
Sometimes one’s assumptions just don’t pan out the way one expects.
For example, about two years ago I reviewed Unplayable Lie (Clock Tower Press), the first mystery novel in Peter Jamesson’s “Chief Inspector St. George” series.
Given the book’s polished prose and entertainment qualities, I assumed that the publisher and the author would quickly come to an agreement to keep churning out the adventures of the portly Scotland Yard detective who loves golf and uses his knowledge of the sport to solve his cases.
It didn’t happen.
The publisher was bought out, and the new owners apparently weren’t interested. With the general recession also affecting the book industry, the author had trouble finding an agent to push for publication elsewhere.
Fortunately for Jamesson, however, thanks in part to the Internet there are other ways to keep his characters alive.
The folks at Ex Libris help authors who don’t mind helping themselves. The company provides editing, publishing, and marketing services, including printing copies on-demand for the readers.
Jamesson used this option for several new St. George mysteries, providing an outlet for the continuation of an entertaining mystery novel enterprise. He sells them through links at his website.
I recently read two of the new mysteries, and I’m pleased to report that the series is living up to my original expectations.
“The Case of the Dying Foursome” is a novella, running at just 96 pages. It’s a good little mystery, set in a quiet backwater middle-class London neighborhood that tourists don’t normally visit.
An old World War II veteran is found shot to death, and there’s no obvious reason for it. After his military adventures as a young man, the dead veteran had led an inordinately quiet life as a merchant. His few interests after retirement centered around two sports, darts and golf, and nothing about either activity gave any clues to the detectives who first handled the case.
Once the Chief Inspector is handed the investigation, however, he turns up some telltale signs proving a connection to golf and the murder that the soccer-loving first detective just didn’t realize.
It’s a fun, fast read.
Stymie is a full-length novel set in Chicago. A British financier with a connection to the Royal Family is a suspect in the murder of his American-born wife. Her own past is not what it seems, and that fact plays a critical role in the Chief Inspector’s responsibilities.
He thought that his only role was to engage in some quiet oversight of his American counterparts, who seem to have the case nearly wrapped up, in order to advise the Royal Family’s protectors if there is a potential public relations disaster on their hands.
It being Chicago, however, with its own colorful history of organized crime, it’s only natural that Inspector St. George comes into contact with some of the Mafia’s modern-day members. They just happen to also have a keen interest in the case.
Jamesson must have spent some time observing the folkways of a big-city police department, as well as with state prosecutors. One major subplot deals with the way in which politics and personal ambition affects crime-fighting. It’s not a pretty story, but unfortunately it wasn’t excessively exaggerated for dramatic effect.
St. George’s sidekick in the first mystery, Det. Sgt. Laurence Poole, didn’t accompany the Chief Inspector to America for this trip. Instead, St. George is ably assisted by an American detective, a former pro football player. This gives St. George an opportunity to use the different psychological impacts of team sports compared to golf as a way to help solve the crime.
There are at least two more St. George mysteries in the works. For the growing fans of this new, rotund hero, that news must be welcome indeed.