The subtitle of this début effort, “A Novel of Mystery,” neatly indicates that the business of solving a mystery will be secondary to the loftier, more “literary” ambition that Walters brings to the book. Of the detection, in the traditional sense, there is almost none. Instead, there is police work of an unorthodox and haphazardly successful kind. The men who perform that work—the harried and ever-suspicious Chief Inspector Walsh, and the recalcitrant Detective Sergeant McLoughlin—come across as fully rounded human beings. Readers who admire the old-fashioned detective story, in which a protagonist doggedly gathers clues and carefully arranges them into a pattern of murder and guilt, might complain that these would-be detective heroes are all too human. Others, with tastes that aren’t so pure, will appreciate how the complex and clashing emotions of various characters, including Walsh and McLoughlin, force the mysteries of Streech village to unravel of their own accord. Many readers will also enjoy the wry twist that Walters gives to the mystery genre. She infuses her tale with more sexual realism than fans of that genre typically want to see, and she deprives them the one thing that they definitely expect to see: namely, a murder.
[ADDENDUM: This review is another item that I’ve plucked from deep inside my digital archive, and like other reviews that I wrote long ago, it’s more schematic and less detailed than ones that I’ve written more recently. It also betrays the narrow view of crime and mystery literature that I held once upon a time. Back then, I really didn’t know what to make of a book about detectives that failed to include a straightforward murder, an intricate puzzle, and (ideally) a surprise ending. If I read this “novel of mystery” today, I might not like it, but I’d be less likely to focus on the author’s failure to write a proper detective novel.]