Date With Betrayal by Julia Chapman
What happens when a community acts together? In this instalment of the Dales Detective Series lots of activity, some humour and a terrific amount of excitement. This book is actually the seventh in the series, but I can confirm that it works as an exciting standalone novel which is how I read it. In fact, having started it, I found it nearly impossible to put down even though it was my first visit to Bruncliffe and my introduction to Delilah, Samson and the rest of the memorable inhabitants. There is gentle humour, some touching moments and some twists and turns which are well handled by this experienced and talented author. The style is friendly, with descriptions as necessary and never laboured, with enough to go on even for someone completely new to this series. The characters are well drawn and realistic, reacting as genuine people. The countryside setting, with errant sheep, challenging walks and narrow roads, is so well described that it becomes almost visible. There are some wonderful set pieces as the most unlikely characters discover new sides to their characters when the pressure is on. Altogether this is a really enjoyable book, and I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.
The book opens with a kidnap. The woman is not named, but it soon becomes obvious that it is a local who has a shrewd idea of what is happening, even if the revelation was not what she expected. Samson is a private detective, a local but who has spent time away after leaving the area in dubious circumstances. His business partner Delilah seemed to be on the edge of becoming another sort of partner, when she begins to act strangely. She has been told that Samson is in imminent danger of being killed as a result of his past work, and she is challenged by the thought that she has no time to waste in working out how to protect him. Realising that she cannot hope to do everything herself, she has to secretly enlist the help of the community. That is not straightforward, as the manner of Samson’s departure from the area left several people with severe doubts about him. Also what Deliah is asking is actually quite risky, with forces outside the village that very few have experience of in terms of actual danger. Deliah has to come up with a fail safe series of schemes that will protect the man she is falling in love with, in the knowledge that even if many people cooperate she will still have to trust in luck. Everything must also be achieved without Samson discovering that anyone locally knows that his life is in extreme danger.
This is a fast moving book with plenty to enjoy in terms of characters, setting and plot. As from what I can see the entire series so far has taken place over only a few months, so it is perfectly possible to pick up what is going on without needing to have read all the previous novels. Delilah and Samson are brilliant characters, this is an exciting and enthralling book, and I recommend it as a great contemporary mystery novel in an English village setting.