Set in England in 1950, The Cricketer’s Arms is the first in a new series by author Garrick Jones. With great skill, he weaves a mystery surrounding a huge cast of characters all related by one thing: greed. For deceased cricket player, Daley Morrison, it was all about endless sexual encounters, drug smuggling, and either throwing or winning games for profit. In a world where drugs are flowing and the Italian mob is a very real entity, a few ex-servicemen led by Clyde Smith and Sam Telford put their heads together to unravel the endless clues and multiple players in this deadly game. From dirty cops all the way to the top of the chain, to casual sex between men of like interest, this mystery draws back the curtain on a bygone era where men hid their sexuality and easily slid from grace to make a fast buck.
While Sam is still a police detective, Clyde got fed up and left his position to become a journalist and a private investigator with the emphasis on the writing job. So when his initials are found on a slip of paper next to Daley’s carefully staged corpse, Clyde picks up his PI mantle and dives in. Along the way, he will realize that the feelings he has for Sam are not really love and that Sam will never commit to a monogamous relationship with him, but there is a sense of undeniable loyalty and history between them. Even though Clyde has met a man, Harry Jones, who has known the deceased intimately and who makes him feel things he has never felt before, the two of them don’t engage in the casual sex Clyde entertains with many a buddy. Harry won’t be just another one of the guys—he wants to be the guy in Clyde’s life and that means not being together while Clyde is still with Sam.
The bare bones synopsis hardly does this four hundred plus page book justice, but suffice it to say that with each turn of the page, some new character or event was appearing and it made this novel fly. As far as mysteries go, Garrick Jones has the knack for writing a humdinger with so many twists and turns there were times I had to reread passages to make sure I understood just who was involved with whom and how they fit into the overall plot. And to be honest, this was also one of the major drawbacks for the novel for me, as well. There were just so many characters involved and several also had an alias, meaning there were multiple names for various men. I loved how complex this mystery was, but I do wish that maybe a few less people were involved. It truly got confusing for me and I am an avid mystery reader so that is saying something.
When you add this to all the casual sex everyone seemed to be having, the story began to get bogged down in information overload. Clyde alone has at least four partners actively and yet his main squeeze, Sam, was the one that he wanted to actually settle down with. Since many of the characters also had wives or girlfriends as a screen to hide their homosexuality behind, you can see how things got muddled pretty quickly—I felt like I needed a flow chart to keep all of it together. I was further frustrated by the fact that nearly everyone Clyde came in contact with he’d had sex with at some point in the past–everyone except Harry, who I really fell in love with, as did Clyde.
Don’t get me wrong, The Cricketer’s Arms was a well done mystery. It was long and yet the action never stalled. I was engrossed as Clyde slowly and carefully brought clarity to an incredibly complex game rigging system and illegal drug business. However, the multitude of characters in this novel and the casual way Clyde had sex with just about everyone made me really doubt the swift ending that rushed to a happy ever after when, in fact, it didn’t have to given it was the beginning of a series. I was also unhappy with the way things were left between Sam and Clyde, by the quick resolution to the rest of the case they had been working on, and what felt like a rushed ending to the story. I will look for more in this series because I do like this style of mystery and I feel the author has some great skill in creating a story around this era in history.