deadly walk in devon coverRating: 3.5 stars
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 Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Rick “Chase” Chasen is a retired San Diego police detective who is still grieving the loss of his husband, Doug. Chase loves walking tours and so he has come to England to join a trip around Devon. He is traveling with Billie, a good friend he met on a prior walk six years ago, as well as a handful of others. Between Doug’s death and his recent retirement, Chase has been sort of at a loss for direction, and he is hoping this trip is a chance to reconnect with something he enjoys and get him out of his funk.

Unfortunately, while the fellow walkers are generally a nice group, Ronald Gretz is rude, boorish, and incredibly difficult, and no one on the trip can stand the guy. But despite how difficult Gretz is, when he tells Chase he has been receiving messages threatening his life, Chase can’t help but be sympathetic. He agrees to keep an eye out and see if he sees anything suspicious that might indicate Gretz is in danger. Unfortunately, when Gretz is out of Chase’s sight, he ends up dead at the bottom of a cliff.

With everyone on the trip needed for questioning — and some being potential suspects — the group is sequestered in their hotel while the police investigate. Once the local police realize Chase is a former detective, they ask for his help on the case. No one in the group admits to having known Gretz prior to the trip (other than his trophy wife, who seems an obvious suspect) and Chase is having a hard time imagining any of them as killers. But at the same time, there seem to be motives for almost everyone, particularly as everyone hated the man. With their holiday on hold, Chase must help uncover just who killed Gretz before the killer strikes again.

A Deadly Walk in Devon is the first in Nicholas George’s Walk Through England series and appears to be the author’s debut work. This one caught my attention right away given the setting and the premise of the walking tour of Devon. I was lucky enough to spend time in this region when I visited England and the area is just gorgeous, so I loved the idea of a series focused on walking tours of England. George does a great job capturing the beauty of the area and we get nice details on the landscape and the lovely vistas as the group takes their walks. However, I did wish we spent more time seeing them explore the area. Once Gretz is killed shortly into their trip, everyone basically spends the entire remainder of the book restricted to the hotel and there is no more time spent walking or exploring Devon. So I think given the set up here for both the book and the series, I would have loved to see more time with them seeing the sights of the region.

The mystery is generally well done and I found it interesting trying to figure out who was behind it all. This isn’t a “locked room” type story, but it is a cozy mystery and, for the most part, the suspects are presumed to be the folks involved with the tour. So we spend a lot of the book following along as Chase and the local police interview and ask questions of the tour participants as they wait in the hotel until the case is over and they can leave. The investigation kept me guessing, but the ending strained credulity given the actions of someone who is supposed to be a seasoned law enforcement professional. Also,

Spoiler title
three separate people trying to scare Gretz by almost killing him
seemed hard to believe and, by the third time, it seemed a little bit ridiculous.

I enjoyed Chase as a character and we get some nice insight into where he is in his life right now. Chase lost his husband and retired from his job in relatively close order and he is sort of feeling at a loss. This case gives him something to sink his teeth into, a sense of purpose he has been missing. We also learn a little about his past and his relationship with his sister and why it causes him be inclined to want to find innocence rather than guilt. The side characters are somewhat less developed, however, and tend to be fairly one dimensional. Gretz is almost a caricature in his awfulness, being rude, boorish, obnoxious, and argumentative with pretty much everyone. Just as some examples of his many horrible moments, here is when someone comments about the poor quality of their mother’s nursing home care:

“Cut the hearts-and-flowers crap,” Gretz snapped. “You sound like all the families I have to put up with. They think we’re going to make their dear old mommies and daddies young again. They got no idea what it takes to put up with these old fossils. I tell you, it’s a thankless job, and —“

or when talking to his wife:

Gretz noticed the glass in my hand. To his wife he said, “Go get me a beer. Make it cold. None of that piss-warm crap they serve over here.”

“The server will be here momentarily,” Sally said. “There’s no need for your wife to do anything.”

“I want a beer now,” Gretz bellowed.

At the same time that Gretz is basically a mustache-twirling villain, Chase seems to be sympathetic toward him. Not that someone deserves to die for being an ass, but it just left me confused as to how I was supposed to view Gretz as a reader. Does the author intend for Gretz to be far less offensive than I found him? Or maybe this is meant to indicate Chase finds a way to see the best in even the most awful people? I was just left somewhat confused as to how to take it all.

This book isn’t really a romance, but we do get a tiny dash of it here, as Chase meets a local man named, Mike, at the hotel and has a brief conversation. Chase is intrigued enough by Mike to hope they connect again, and they do run into each other a couple more times. But Chase seems to be thinking a lot more toward a future with this random man who lives in another country than I would have expected given how little time these guys actually spend together. I mean, it is a couple of quick chats, nothing more. But given this is the start of a series set in England, I assume things will develop further in future books. I’ll also note that I really liked that we are dealing with an older romantic lead here, as Chase is in his late 60s, which is rare for romance novels.

There were a few other things that didn’t totally make sense to me, but perhaps this is me coming from an American perspective. It seemed surprising to me that the police would include Chase in their investigation so readily, letting him in on private information and having him interview suspects, particularly since he should have theoretically been a low-level suspect himself. Also, the members of the tour group let the police interview them over and over again with no legal representation, even knowing they are considered murder suspects. Like I said, maybe this is my American sensibilities, but these are tourists being questioned as murder suspects for days and none of them bring in attorneys? Or call the American embassy or something? I mean, if I was suspected of murder on foreign soil, I certainly would want someone official by my side. And finally, it surprised me that this tour company is totally not involved in any of this. Someone is murdered on their tour, the tour leader is a new hire leading her first trip, the tour participants are all suspects, and literally no one from the tour company seems to talk to them or even show up at the hotel to speak to the police.

So I did have some issues here and overall the writing wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. But I still find this series premise really intriguing and I am curious enough to give the next book a shot. I liked Chase and think there is some nice potential for the series.

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