Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: David Maxwell
Length: 7 hours, 53 minutes
Adam is more than ready to call it a day. Lindenshaw St. Crispin’s, the school where Adam teaches, is looking for a new headteacher and it’s come down to three potential candidates, one of whom has just had his interview. Another called in sick, and the third … well, he’s dead. And not in the peaceful manner one hopes for, but in a ghastly and painful case of strangulation in the children’s cafeteria. Now, instead of heading home for a cup of tea, Adam is a potential suspect in a murder investigation.
Robin Bright was unfortunate enough to attend St. Crispin’s as a child. It was a time of being bullied and tormented, and the last thing he ever wanted to do was go back. But, as an Inspector, it’s his duty, like it or not. Adding into the complications is Adam Matthews, who can’t help but catch Robin’s eye. But of course, Robin can’t do anything more than look. No falling for handsome young men who may or may not be murderers, even though Robin is certain Adam’s nothing of the sort. Of course, he doesn’t even know if Adam is gay, and in a small English town, finding out if someone’s gay is almost as difficult as catching a murderer.
I am full of mixed feelings for this book and the characters of Adam and Robin. For all that the story switches POVs from one to the other, I wasn’t really able to get a feel for them as people. Adam is a teacher who likes his job or, at least, doesn’t mind it. He has a dog, a mother, and is friendly with the people he works with. But most of the story is centered around actions on Adam’s part, rather than thoughts or emotions, and while I got the sense that he was a decent person, as a character he left a little to be desired as I never felt like I got to know who he was.
Robin is a bit better, but still didn’t quite land for me. His time in the book is more or less evenly spread into thirds. The first, his time at St. Crispin’s and how much he hated it; the second, his thoughts on whether or not Adam is gay, how much he’d like him to be gay, and how he mustn’t become too interested so long as there’s an active investigation; and the third all revolves around the case. Again, Robin seems like a nice enough guy, but I wasn’t even really able to tell if he liked his partner or was just okay with him. I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two of them, and, because Robin is a decent inspector and isn’t going to romance Adam while he’s working on a case Adam is involved in, nothing really happens beyond a kiss or two and a promise to try something when all’s said and done.
The murder mystery felt a bit … well, contrived. I’m not a huge mystery reader, so take that with a grain of salt, especially if you’re big into mysteries; I may just not be familiar with the tropes, but I felt like there wasn’t ever a clear indication of who the murder was until they’re revealed, and then the grand confession scene of “yes I did it, here’s how I did it, and I’d do it again.” There’s also a slight edge of sex equals bad and gay equals shameful that might be there more because this is a small English town, but it was still off putting, for me.
The narrator of the audio version, David Maxwell, has a pleasant voice and a smooth delivery, but I still had to increase the speed due to the careful deliberation he took with the story. His voices blended together, especially in crowd scenes, and while Robin and Adam had fairly distinctive voices when they were with other people, when the two of them were together, it could be a little hard to tell them apart. However, there were neat moments in the production of the audio version, such as when a character was speaking over an intercom or the telephone where they actually sounded as though they were on a device of some sort. It’s the first time I’ve heard that, and I enjoyed it. Overall, it’s an okay book and decent narration, I just couldn’t get into it.