Book Log #10: The Young Widow, by Cassandra Chan

The Young Widow (Phillip Bethancourt and Jack Gibbons Mysteries #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw Cassandra Chan’s Bethancourt-Gibbons mysteries recommended on LJ and decided to check them out–and wound up being very glad I did. The style of the series is very akin to Dorothy Sayers, enough that unless you’re paying attention it’s easy to mistake these books for period mysteries; they aren’t. That it takes a bit to realize this in Book 1, even with such obvious technological markers as cell phones and the Internet, is one of the reasons the series takes a bit to get its feet under it. But hang in there, because there’s a lot to like here.

The foundation of the series is the friendship between Phillip Bethancourt, a son of British nobility who’s dabbling in assisting police investigations, and the sergeant Jack Gibbons. Bethancourt gets away with participating in Gibbons’ investigations because his blue-blooded father has expressed strong interest in his son’s being able to productively occupy himself, and because he has an aptitude for it. For his own part, Gibbons is the more prosaic, earnest foil to Bethancourt’s elegance. The two men have an excellent chemistry to their friendship, even in this first book; I found myself a bit regretful that it’s already in full swing when the story starts, because it would have been great fun to see how these two characters meet and establish their relationship.

The case in The Young Widow gives them plenty to work with, at any rate. Wealthy Geoffrey Berowne has been poisoned, and the prime suspect, his young third wife Annette, is disturbingly alluring to Gibbons. The two friends uncover the expected pile of dark family secrets in their investigation, but what really drives this plot is the chemistry between Gibbons and Annette. It’s important character development for Gibbons that affects him throughout the succeeding books.

Three stars for a decent start to a series.