*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley, with thanks to the author and publishers. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: The original Anthony Rathe stories of courtroom criminal cases appeared on American public radio, syndicated by the late Jim French through his Imagination Theater. When Anthony Rathe Investigates continues where the radio stories finished.
Prosecuting criminal cases, barrister Anthony Rathe convinced a jury to imprison an innocent man, who subsequently took his own life. Horrified at his mistake, Rathe abandons his glittering legal career, vowing to truly serve justice. A series of cases come his way.
These four stories, linked by how Rathe is racked with guilt over the suicide, explore crime from a different angle: determination to find the truth, no matter how inconvenient to the investigating officer, Inspector Cook. The first story, Burial for the Dead, exposes sordid family history that led to a murder in a church. In A Question of Proof, Inspector Cook needs Rathe to unravel an underworld murder; in Ties that Bind Rathe solves a crime of passion; and in The Quick and the Dead, modern slavery intrudes into his own personal life.
This book consists of four short stories, featuring the eponymous Anthony Rathe as a guilt-ridden ex-lawyer, attempting to alleviate his personal martyrdom by questing for justice on behalf of the wrongfully accused.
Having given up his legal career due to a personal crisis of faith, Rathe takes an amateur interest in a number of local murder cases and assists the police (or interferes) to ensure that the correct suspect gets the blame.
The story style is that of traditional amateur sleuth narratives: a puzzle is posed, with a reasonable number of hints and clues provided, and the reader and investigator attempt to piece together the pieces before the innocent suffer further.
I particularly enjoyed the puzzle element of these stories as I felt the author ‘played fair’ with the number and presentation of clues, so I managed an even success rate in identifying the killer before the characters did! I also enjoyed the changing and developing relationship between Rathe and his police contact frenemy.
I was much less keen on the framing narrative in which Rathe repeatedly encounters the mother of the man he helped to wrongfully imprison. I felt that the initial conversation was enough to give the reader a sense of the setup for the main character, and that repeatedly returning to the same scene felt unnecessary. I found it hard to empathise with the calm acceptance on the one side, and the (in my mind) excessive sackcloth-and-ashing that Rathe indulges in on the other.
In general these are great short mysteries, perfect for crime readers looking for a light bite. To tempt me into a longer novel featuring the same lead character I would want some reassurance that he is able to ease up on the self-flagellation a little!
For a moment, he was incapable of registering anything other than the sight and smell of blood. But then, as if from some place far away, he heard the whimper of a voice, but oddly childish in its terrified pitch. Healey broke free from his blood-spattered spell and looked at the other man in the church. Not the horrible thing which had once been a man, but the undeniably human form which was standing over the corpse. He was staring at the vicar with the wild eyes of a madman, his face twisted in some emotion which might have been fear, panic, or guilt. Perhaps it was a mixture of them all. His hands were outstretched to Healey and at once the vicar was again conscious of the presence of blood. This time, it was smeared over those outstretched palms, as though begging the holy man to cleanse them. As the stranger took a step towards him, Healey made an instinctive move backwards. The man seemed bewildered by the vicar’s movement, frowning in confusion into the light of the torch’s beam. Then, as though his senses told him what was in the vicar’s mind, the man began to shake his head. A finger snaked out and pointed towards the body beside him.
“I didn’t do this,” he stammered.
– Matthew Booth, When Anthony Rathe Investigates
When Anthony Rathe Investigates releases on Amazon on 18th September, but is available to preorder right now!