“The Shivering Turn” introduces ex-policewoman turned private investigator, Jennie Redhead, and is set in the historic British city of Oxford. From the northern county of Lancashire, she studied at Oxford herself and got her degree in English Literature. And guess what? She IS a redhead! She views the fact that her hair matches her name to be a curse she is forced to endure.
Of her family Jennie says: “We allowed our worries and fears, our angers and resentment, to quietly fester away beneath a veneer of amiability“. Her emotion-starved home life has made her distant in her relationships. Of her father she said that he lived a life “in which joy was sacrificed on the altar of respectability“. Of her mother, when she is being annoyingly repetitive “She repeats, as if repetition can easily kick the shit out of logic any day of the week.”
Jennie left the Thames Valley police when she discovered one of her superiors to be corrupt. She still has a few contacts within the police, one of whom is DS George Hobson, her friend and former lover.
Not yet thirty years old, Jennie is struggling to make ends meet when she is hired to find Linda, the seventeen-year-old daughter of Mary Corbet, who just happens to be married to Tom Corbet, an inspector with Thames Valley Police.
Jennie reluctantly begins investigating and discovers that Linda was somehow involved with one of the University’s myriad student societies named “The Shivering Turn Society”. The society was named for a poem by metaphysical poet Robert Cudlip.
“And dare you face your urges and desires,
Embracing both the good and bad you own,
Or will you, like a cold and errant coward
Abandon all and make a shivering turn?”
Jennie enlists the aid of Charles Swift, St. Luke’s College’s bursar, an old friend from the time she was a student there herself. Travelling about the historic city on her trusty bicycle, Jennie also visits the Bodleian Library to do some research on the poet.
While interviewing members of the Society, Jennie discovers them to be arrogant, privileged, wankers. Their leader, Crispin, excels at making others feel inferior, and he delights on showing everyone how clever he is.
I loved how the author inserted a brief line or two to connect Jennie Redhead to Monika Paniatowski, one of his other successful series protagonists.
Written with finesse and a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ humour, “The Shivering Turn” was a very enjoyable mystery with more than one ironic plot twist. The setting and time period (May 1974) were integral parts of the story line, and the characterization was well wrought. The second book in the series, “Dry bones” is due to be published in February 2018. This is a series I plan to follow!
I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from the publishers, Severn House via NetGalley in consideration of my honest review.
Sally Spencer is a pen name, first adopted when the author (actually called Alan Rustage) was writing sagas and it was almost obligatory that a woman’s name appeared on the cover. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a teacher.
He lived in Madrid for over twenty years, and still considers it the most interesting and exciting city he has ever visited, but for the last few years he has opted for a quieter life in the seaside town of Calpe, Spain.
Alan is a competitive games player who likes bridge and pub quizzes. It is only by enforcing iron discipline that he doesn’t play video games all the time.