This weekend I am reading the Lord and Lady Hetheridge series by Emma Jameson for the third time.
I needed to be able to picture Tony in order to appreciate the story better, so I have decided to see him as Anthony Bourdain, only shorter. If he looked in formal wear like Bourdain did at the 2016 Emmys, it would explain a lot about why Kate is able to overlook their extreme age difference so easily.
I was never particularly interested in or knew anything about Bourdain, by the way, until he died. His death was certainly a real tragedy, and I learned a little about him at that time, but not much; it seemed too sad.
The main reason I’m rereading this series this time is because I want to get back to the Doyle and Acton series by Anne Cleeland. I read the first five, maybe the sixth, don’t perfectly remember, and there are eight in total. So I requested six-eight from the library and will pick up with them in a few days when they arrive.
These two book series have a lot in common, and they also are both clearly influenced by Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series, and maybe a bit of P. D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh series, as well, though that one belongs more to the "lonely widower detective" genre, which is totally a thing in case you didn't know. Of course, it all starts with Lord Peter Wimsey, but that's for a longer piece of writing than I intend to do.
Those two series are rather more cerebral, but they both feature a police detective who is a member of the British peerage, and that aspect of his character factors into the plotlines and how others see him. Inspector Lynley works with a female sergeant who is from a lower class background, and that is the element both the Cleeland and Jameson series share.
In both these newer series, the bond between the young woman and her “guv” develop rapidly, the people around them don’t fully understand it, and the ensuing tensions are explored amidst the solving of murders. Overlaying that basic setup are two very different atmospheres. Lord Hetheridge is straightforward and fairly transparent. He’s confident and has a certain amount of innate power, so he uses that to solve crimes, build relationships, arrange life to his satisfaction. He’s wholly a good guy, though with some of the same feelings we all have from time to time that could lead to ethically ambiguous decisions, but generally don't. We see the stories develop from his point of view, but also from Kate’s, and the other member of their team, Deepal Bhar.
If you like “light” crime reading with a bit of romance, and don’t mind a few inconsistent minor details, you might like this series. It doesn’t go nearly so deep as the Inspector Lynley series, and a lot of cliched ground is covered, but the characters are people to root for and the crime plots are fairly interesting. I suppose they're what people like to refer to as "guilty pleasure" more than anything else. I enjoy them without guilt, don't need things like this to be more than what they are. If the basic premise sounds good, but you want to stick with something more deep and absorbing, have a look at the Elizabeth George series, instead.
The other series, about Doyle and Acton (I searched for far too long for a good list or review that was also spoiler-free, which is how I started the first book; this is the closest I could come) is another matter. It began, I think, in 2013, and I expect if Cleeland tried to sell the beginning of it now, she’d have to change a lot about it; Acton's personality would displease quite a few people. As it is, I read she had a tough task selling her publishers on a couple later entries. The stories, mainly from (Irish and therefore intutive, don'tcha know) Kathleen Doyle’s point of view, follow a similar progression to the Hetheridge ones, but with more moral ambiguity and some sinister twists, revealed in measured electric shocks as the plots unfold. I appreciate that a lot in fiction, which allows us to explore the darker paths we’d never take in real life. It’s often mentally arousing.
But not everyone can enjoy fiction that both mirrors real life and disrupts our basic understanding of good guys and bad guys. I think that’s one reason people like fantasies set in made-up times and places; the characters in them sometimes get to behave intriguingly in ways that we could not accept in a setting that looks and sounds just like our own. To that end, if that's you, I'd say go back and read the old Adam Dalgliesh books for thought-provoking crime stories with more literary merit and fewer moral dilemmas. I enjoy Doyle and Acton's dialogue, but am not sure to whom I'd recommend the series. I might reevaluate that statement after I read the remaining books.
And it’s possible someone else could write this premise as a series and do it better, but would they? I kinda figure that since stories are told by the people most interested in telling them, they are pretty much told as they’re meant to be…but I don’t want to get any more existential than that, because I meant to talk today about songs I was obsessed with from ages 10-15 or so, and here we are, instead. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯