Murder on Oxford Lane by Tony Bassett
This is an all encompassing sort of contemporary mystery set in an English village in the Midlands. Not that its scenic beauty is anything compared with the dubious goings on that result from the apparent disappearance of Harry Bowers on a short journey to choir practice. A married property developer with an interesting background, Harry’s sudden dropping out of life seems largely unremarked for some time, but it soon becomes a priority for experienced DCI Gavin Roscoe as he uses all sorts of contacts to discover the truth. His new Detective Sergeant Sunita Roy is keen to help and indeed establish new leads, but she has a problem with an ex boyfriend who will not be told that she is no longer interested in him. As clues, leads and ideas come together, this carefully written book becomes a skilfully plotted, layered mystery with some well established characters. As detailed character descriptions combine with settings established with great care, this is an impressive first book in what promises to be an exciting series of hard to put down books. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this impressive novel of murder and mystery.
The book opens with Harry returning to his very comfortable and desirable home contemplating the fact that his wife was having an illicit relationship. He is even aware of who the man is – a fellow choir member. While he anticipates the possibility of some unpleasantness at the choir rehearsal later that evening, he does not foresee the violence that will occur. Meanwhile Sunita is getting ready to face her first day working for Gavin Roscoe, against a background of family upset and an enjoyable holiday. As soon as a report comes in of the missing Harry, she spots that his wife has not reported his disappearance for at least a week. A burnt out garage adds to her feeling that this is not going to be a straightforward case. Meanwhile Gavin is coming under pressure to find out what has happened to Harry from above, as it appears there are some powerful interested parties. As she begins to immerse herself in a crime that will require all her concentration, Sunita receives an unwanted visit from Arun “A face she’d hope to never see again”. She hopes to leave him in no doubt that his messages and visits were definitely unwanted, but the truth seems hard for him to comprehend. As the mystery of Harry’s disappearance deepens, a bizarre discovery in a nearby marina intensifies the search for the truth, but it appears that it will be difficult to discover in a small community becoming increasingly uneasy.
This is the sort of mystery to become really involved in, carefully setting up lots of potential clues and leads. As the detectives move alongside, picking up on the hints of what may be really going on, there is a good sense of pacing underlying the narrative. I found this an enthralling story with elements of a thriller as well as what becomes a deep mystery. I really enjoyed the characterisation, especially Gavin and Sunita, the latter having a fine instinct for following her instincts and coping with all sorts of challenges. I recommend this book for fans of contemporary mystery books who perhaps do not enjoy extreme violence, but appreciate a novel which offers a layered and sophisticated mystery.